This post is part of a paid partnership with Minds in Bloom.

Who else has a love/hate relationship with assessments? 

I’ve administered assessments that did nothing more than check a box, and I’ve administered assessments that were driving forces in student learning. 

Assessments don’t have to be overwhelming. In fact, quality assessment is a worthwhile use of your valuable class time and can make a big difference in student learning. 

Notice I said “quality assessment.” 

Most teachers understand summative assessment and formative assessment, but pre-assessments are often missed opportunities. 

What Is a Pre-Assessment?

Pre-assessments are just small “tests” given to students to help the teacher find out what the student already knows and understands, what they’re able to do, and if any misconceptions exist. 

The best-designed ones allow teachers to:

  • Decide how to differentiate (flexible grouping)
  • Get a base-line for monitoring progress
  • Introduce new material
  • Focus students on core knowledge within the content
  • Find misconceptions and intervene right away
  • Build self-efficacy in students

In this post, I’ll show you how you can build pre-assessments that can become effective guides for your teaching. 

10 Easy Strategies for Creating a Pre-Assessment 

Over the past year or so, I’ve been finding more and more ways to use Easel by TpT to enhance our resources. I’ve found Easel Assessments to be particularly useful in designing resources that can help you glean lots of information about your students.

Easel by TpT is a tool that makes it easy to teach, engage, and assess students with interactive content from TpT. Easel Assessments let you ask a variety of questions and give you the data you need to gauge your students’ abilities.

Before we get started, be sure and grab your free copy of this Paraphrasing and Summarizing Easel Pre-Assessment. I chose this topic because it’s a notoriously difficult concept for elementary students. I’ll go question by question so you can see some strategies for building your own pre-assessments. 

A disclaimer before we start: 

  • As I walk you through this pre-assessment example, don’t feel like you must do all these things. My goal is to show you what’s possible with pre-assessment — not what’s required. Just do what you can or what makes sense for you.
  • You’ll also see lots of Easel options and features you can use. Take my ideas and think about incorporating them into your other activities and resources too.

Ready…Set…Go!

1. Have students self-assess prior knowledge. 

For the first question, I prompt students to reach into their knowledge bank and think about what they already know. This provides a low-risk setting that encourages honest reflection. Honest reflection allows you to gauge where your students are starting.

Graphical user interface of a pre-assessment question example

Making the pre-assessment more meaningful with Easel:

Easel makes it easy to create classroom polls. I phrased the answer choices in a positive way. I also added inviting clip art — but that is totally optional. 

2. Preview the topic that students will be learning. 

This question helps focus the students on what they’ll be learning. By phrasing the question this way, I’m building optimism right from the start. Self-efficacy is one of the greatest indicators of student success! 

Graphical user interface of a pre-assessment question example

Making the pre-assessment more meaningful with Easel: 

I created a poll with four different answer choices that all mean: “Yes, I’m ready to learn.” The choices are presented in a light and positive way to help students feel comfortable and confident as they begin. 

3. Introduce the anchor skills for your topic.

Think of a skill. 

What are its basic foundations?  

I think of these basic foundations or sub-skills as “anchors.” Deeper understandings and applications are attached to these anchors.  

For this question, I’m not giving a lot of detail, but instead, I’m simply pointing out the most important things the students will need to know about paraphrasing.  

Graphical user interface of a pre-assessment question example

Remember: we’re not assessing just yet. Since I’m just introducing the skill and its anchors as part of this pre-assessment, there are no questions about the content.

Making the pre-assessment more meaningful with Easel:

I want students to recognize and be able to pronounce the new vocabulary, so I added audio and language support right into the question.*  The students simply click the icon to hear the words. 

4. Assess students’ retention of new information.

Here, I’m assessing whether students were able to retain the main ideas about paraphrasing that have been introduced. It’s basic recall. However, there is one obviously wrong answer choice. 

Graphical user interface of a pre-assessment question example

Why format it like this? Having an obviously false answer helps reinforce the other three answers as being true. It’s just presenting the anchors in another way.

5. Have students apply what they’ve learned. 

Graphical user interface of a pre-assessment question example

Here, we have an application opportunity. The question isn’t rigorous because I want to see how students do with a basic application of the new material.  

Making the pre-assessment more meaningful with Easel:

Since students will be learning that there is more than one way to paraphrase a sentence, I used the Easel multi-select tool to have students pick two choices that are correctly paraphrased. This is another way to introduce the skill.

Easel Assessments also give students immediate feedback by allowing them to check their answers as they take the pre-assessment. You can opt to withhold the feedback until the end, but providing it in a timely way reinforces the concepts you’re introducing.

Graphical user interface of a pre-assessment question example

6. Get a baseline for monitoring student proficiency. 

For the next question, I wanted to increase the rigor so that I could see which students might advance through the lessons more quickly.  

Graphical user interface of a pre-assessment question example

Doing so helps me create flexible groups of students who are ready to learn at the exact level that is appropriate for them. These advanced questions are especially important to your gifted and high achieving students. 

Remember: Target the exact skills you’re pre-assessing. Since this text is longer, I want to make sure I am assessing the students’ ability to paraphrase, not their ability to read. 

Making the pre-assessment more meaningful with Easel:

Easel Assessments make it easy to add audio files, so I included a read-aloud version of the question and the answer choices. 

7. Gathering insight on student thinking.

For the last question on paraphrasing, I want to see how students are thinking by having them justify their choice.

Graphical user interface of a pre-assessment question example

Including a question and answer set that requires a little more thought will provide data that can help you determine which students will be ready to go deeper with the skill.  

Making the pre-assessment more meaningful with Easel:

I also used this question to reinforce the anchors. The paraphrasing anchors for this lesson are:

  • You must put the text in your own words.
  • You can’t copy the author (plagiarism).
  • You can paraphrase by rearranging the text.
  • You must include all the important information.

Before the students ever have an official lesson on this skill, they will have seen these anchors multiple times.  

Graphical user interface of a pre-assessment question example

After students have been pre-assessed on paraphrasing, they will move to the next topic of the pre-assessment: summarizing  

I’ll repeat the same strategies outlined above to pre-assess the new skill of summarizing. Normally, you wouldn’t pre-assess two different skills at once, but since my objective focuses on differentiating between paraphrasing and summarizing, it makes sense to combine them.

8.  Look for intervention opportunities.

Knowing that one of the most difficult parts of summarizing and paraphrasing is being able to differentiate between them, I wanted to build that into the assessment. 

Graphical user interface of a pre-assessment question example

For this question, I’m showing the students two paraphrases and two summaries. Just by looking, the students will see that two are short and two are long. 

Make the pre-assessment even more meaningful with Easel: I also included two correct summaries so that students see that there isn’t just one way to write a summary. Easel makes it easy to create questions that allow multiple correct answers.

9. Build in additional supports for students.

With Easel, it’s possible to build in student support so that your pre-assessment is targeting the right skills. This question provides audio and visual support. When using pre-assessment, think about what skills you’re targeting and provide support to ensure problems with other skills (such as reading or focus) don’t impede your results.

Graphical user interface of a pre-assessment question example
A picture containing text displayed on a iPad

10. Ask students to reflect on their learning. 

The very last question asks students to reflect on what they just learned. Because it’s structured as a poll, the data collected is an amazing tool for meeting each student exactly where they are. 

Graphical user interface of a pre-assessment question example

The students will get to see all their compiled results as soon as they’re finished. This information can help you create a baseline for monitoring progress as the student moves into the learning phase. 

I’m Done Pre-Assessing. Now What?

Once you’ve created a quality assessment and have administered it, don’t forget to use the data to drive your instructional decisions.  Easel provides an easy way to see student results. You can look at the overview and question tabs to identify initial strengths and weaknesses and to help with flexible grouping.

Easel Assessment overview tab

Once your students have completed the activity, Easel makes it easy to check the results.

Screenshot of quiz results tab
Here’s a screenshot of the results.

For example, you can see at a glance that both students missed question #15.  You can check to see what misconceptions may exist surrounding the question, or you could simply pull those students into a small group to give them a mini lesson. 

Easel Assessment questions tab

The “Questions” tab is where you can see the breakdown of student answers.

screenshot of questions tab
Here’s a screenshot of the “Questions” tab.

At a glance, you can see that everyone answered #6 and #7 correctly.  Since both of these questions are about choosing correctly paraphrased paragraphs, the data shows that students are ready to dig into the skill with more rigorous application. 

Last Thoughts

As teachers, we can think of pre-assessments as tools that go beyond differentiating and monitoring student progress. Hopefully you feel inspired to make pre-assessment a more meaningful part of your instruction.  

Be sure and download this FREE paraphrasing and summarizing Easel Assessment. And if you’d like to learn more about Easel, get started here.


Minds in Bloom is passionate about sharing strategies and ideas for teaching both academic content and 21st century skills. Our goal is to help teachers get their nights and weekends back by providing quality resources for upper elementary students. Find us on TpT or online at www.Minds-in-Bloom.com.


*As of November 2021, the ability to add audio recordings in Easel by TpT is only available to Premium Sellers.