How to Be Mindful When It Comes to Assessing Your Student
By ISJL Education Fellow Rena Lubin
A lot of religious school teachers have moved away from assessing their students’ progress by giving them grades for their work, issuing letter-based report cards, and administering tests, quizzes, or exams. It is important for us to remember that coming to religious school is—first and foremost—a choice, so we do not want our students to feel like their Jewish education is an extension of a system they witness daily in their school systems. How can we be mindful of this yet continue to effectively assess and monitor our students’ progress in the classroom?
Make Assessments Fun
We can all strive to integrate creative and engaging ways to assess our students’ learning in the classroom! Consider playing games that test and check their knowledge of Hebrew, have students take turns leading their classmates in a relaxing Aleph Bet yoga class, or hosting a riveting and intense game of Jewpardy or a Judaica-themed Family Feud. Some other ideas include creating a lesson-themed word search or crossword puzzle, putting together a scavenger hunt in the sanctuary, or giving each student a “Jewish Passport” that encourages students to complete Jewish “tasks” both in and out of the classroom. Remember to provide a few minutes at the beginning of class for each student to journal about what they are learning and what they are struggling with. Make your classroom environment one that your students are excited to learn in, and “assessment” is something fun and imaginative that they look forward to!
One way to engage students in a mindful method of assessment is to track their progress throughout the school year. Near the beginning of religious school, prompt them to answer questions such as: “What do you want to learn this year?”, “What do you not want to learn about this year and why?”, “What is one goal you have for yourself this year?”, or “What is something I, as the teacher, can help you achieve this year?” Collect and keep their answers, check back in with the students later in the year and discuss their responses, where they are at compared to where they were, and help them track their progress since that first day. This thoughtful technique ensures that students remain active participants in their learning and helps them take ownership of their progress.
Look at Improvement
To build a more intentional classroom environment, consider focusing on a student’s individual improvement rather than how close they are to an “end goal.” This can be a more productive and personal marker of success for each individual student, their work ethic, and style of learning. Remember where they were on the first day of school; look at how far they have come, how much they have learned, and how much they have grown. Appreciate everything they know now that they did not know before, instead of thinking about all that they do not! Affirming students’ good behavior and good work in terms of improvement makes the student feel better about their performance, motivates them to continue improving, considers their achievements a part of the journey rather than the destination, and better builds a productive and inspirational relationship between teacher and student.