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Planning a pre-assessment

Pre-assessments can be used for a variety of purposes--to determine what students already know, to adapt instruction to the interests of the class, to begin an extended conversation with students and to frame future instruction.

Pre-assessments can range from short tests to more elaborate projects. Below are some ideas for pre-assessments for a middle school social studies unit. Use them to think about the kind of pre-assessments that would be useful in the next unit you are teaching.

Challenge—Choose the best pre-assessment:

A teacher planning a unit on Africa in a secondary Geography course decides to focus upon this standard:

All students will describe and explain the causes, consequences and geographic context of major global issues and events.

The teacher chooses the lag in economic development in Africa and the resulting reduction in its peoples' standard of living as the unit's focus issue.

1. What might each of these pre-assessments afford the teacher in planning the unit? Which would you use?


a. Have students write what they already know about Africa and what they would like to know about that continent;
b. Have students sketch what they already know about Africa and what they would like to know;
c. Have students analyze and explain statistics on African countries or Africa in general (like from the Population Reference Bureau's World Population Data Sheet at www.prb.org).
d. Show students a television commercial or a Web site that seeks sponsors for poor African children and ask them if that is something that your class should consider doing;
e. Give students a true-or-false pre-test on Africa's economic development;
f. Show students a movie about Europe's colonization of Africa and then have them write on how this colonization might have affected Africa's development;
g. Have students analyze a product map of Africa.


2. What additional pre-assessment activities could be used in this or other units?


3. How would you use the results of a pre-assessment to plan a unit and its other assessment activities?


See Analyzing pre-assessment data.