Did you grow up dreading tests? I know I did. The very word can be intimidating! And while tests are a natural part of life, learning how to assess in different ways (you know, test your kids) can be a game changer! Changing the game is kind of what we do as homeschoolers anyway, can I get an witness? And why not with tests? There's more than one way to show what you know and tests won't be the only assessments we have in life!
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Hi, I'm Lisa Nehring and you are listening to Episode 97 of the It’s Not That Hard to Homeschool High School podcast. Welcome to another episode of It’s Not That Hard to Homeschool High School, the podcast for real people so that you can confidently, competently, and yes, even contentedly provide the high school education that is best for your teen and your family. I’m your host Lisa Nehring from notthathardtohomeschool.com.
In this week's podcast we're going to hear about 4 ways to assess our kids so that any student, regardless of abilities or challenges can succeed! I've known and worked with Anna for a couple of years now and she is a creative and innovative educational consultant and Educator who thrives on seeing her students succeed! Enjoy!
Anna Knaub: Hello, my name is Anna Knaub, and I have been a teacher for a little over 10 years. In that time, I've worked in both public school, private school, and in homeschooling. I also do Pennsylvania homeschool evaluations, and I've discovered a secret sauce to assessing your children. It's four ridiculously easy things that you can do, and they're all very important, not just for school right now, but really moving on in life as a whole. Those four things are essay, assessment, creation, and presentation. I am going to break those down for you and give you some ideas of what you could do and explain why they're important.
The first one is essay. No matter what path your child may be taking, knowing how to articulate in an organized and clear fashion is always going to be important. It does not matter if they are going into ministry, it doesn't matter if they are going into some kind of trade, or even if they're going into something more academic. They're obviously going to need to articulate.
I'm in a really cool position in that I have a very trades-based family, if you will. My dad, he has his CDL and has been working at the trucking industry for decades. There was a time where he was a fleet co-ordinator, and a number of times, he had to write out proposals. Maybe not necessarily essays, but again, he had to use those writing skills in an organized fashion to be able to support what he needed or he wanted.
If you are going into academia, you're obviously going to need to know how to do research and how to write, and so ways that you can incorporate essay– By essay, I generally mean your standard five paragraph essay. That's an intro, three body paragraphs, and a closing paragraph. Ways that you can incorporate that into science is a lab report, right? Your student explains what the challenge or what the experiment was. They give you three paragraphs maybe on their process, their supplies, and then the outcome. Their conclusion may be about what they learned, what they would do different next time, anything like that.
In English, there's so many applications. Everything from doing character analysis, to analyzing a setting, to a literary criticism. I love to give my students that free rein to write their own. I have a student right now, we just finished reading Wuthering Heights, and he is writing an essay on child abuse and how it affected Heathcliff's personality, his character, and his behavior. It is extremely fascinating. In my medieval lit class, I just had students writing essays where they compared King Arthur to biblical characters, especially King David, which were just awesome.
There's lots of application for the essay here, and generally, you are looking for organization. Are they giving you a thesis statement, a clear direction of the paper? Are they meeting that five paragraph length requirement? Do they have three really clear points in their essay, and a good, strong conclusion that doesn't end with, “In conclusion,” or “To finish,” or something like that? The essay is always going to be so important.
The next one is assessment. Typically, I do this in one of two ways. You can do this in a way that you see fit. I find that sometimes, in the homeschool community especially, it's a bit anti-test. We don't like our kids to sit down and have to take a test, but again, if they go on to college, if they go on to even trade schools, they're going to have to take some kind of test, usually at some point. It's good for them to have practice at those skills in a low stress environment.
What I usually do is I do a unit test with questions that are maybe based on historical context that we've gone over, information about the author, and then actual book information. That could be plot points, that could be characterization, that can be any kind of analysis.
Typically all things that we have gone over in my classes, but you could do the same thing with your student. You could go through and create multiple choice that goes through those different things.
Another way that I do it is by reading quizzes. Instead of doing a big unit test that goes over everything that we've read in the book, that we've gone over in our study guides, I typically do a review that really gives them the answers anyway. With the reading quizzes, I take that same information and I chunk it down, so that after each of their assigned readings, they're answering maybe 10 multiple choice questions on that reading. I'm getting the same information from them. It's just chunked down differently. Colleges, transcripts, evaluators, people like to see concrete numbers, and so this is a way that you can give yourself some hard data without having to stress too much. Again, it's not high risk like an SAT or an ACT score or something like that.
There are lots of already made unit tests that you could purchase either from individual teachers that create
The third one is creation. This is one of my absolute hands down most favorite assignments to give students, and it could probably be yours, too. Really, what I do is I give them the opportunity to show me that they understand characterization, setting, or themes in a creative way. That could be something like creating a rendering of a character from the story. They take whatever descriptions they get from the story, personality traits, and they draw, paint, create in Minecraft, anything like that, the character that they see in their mind as they're reading. I've done this with creating a book cover that they feel would match the mood and tone and vibe of the book. I've done this with setting. I had a kid create a Viking mead hall on Minecraft for Beowulf. I've had beautiful watercolors of English countrysides and cottages. I had some great ones when we did Brave New World of the incubation rooms. Creation is really a great opportunity, again, to allow your student to show that they understand who a character is, the purpose of setting, how it drives forward in a literary setting without them having to write an essay in a math way. Obviously, we have things like symmetry, we have shapes, and geometry. There are so many different components in math that are actually applied to art. You could take your student and say, “I want you to use these shapes and create a picture. Find their angles, find their area, find their perimeters.” There's just really cool ways. Ratios with colors even. “One part white to two parts red will make this shade of pink, versus one to one white and red.” Not only is it a really cool application to art, but it's a really cool way to do ratios and play with those things in a mathematical way as well.
The last one that is very important is presentation. This is something that I have found that many homeschool kids that I have worked with tend to not —-
have the same level of skills that I would hope they have, especially at a high school level, because they often don't have a need to present. They're not necessarily presenting in front of a class. What I mean by presentation isn't just standing in front of a class, but actually creating a visual aid like a PowerPoint, Google Slides. Canva has really great presentation options. Prezi is another one of my absolute favorites. A lot of these students, they either put giant paragraphs on, or one or two words, crazy colors. They need to learn these skills. Again, you have no idea what application. I've used presentation in some crazy applications. Again, I'm going to use my dad in this example. In many of his jobs, he's come up with presentations for training, talking about safety, talking about needs for trucks and various items that they needed, presenting them to his superiors saying, “Hey, we need this stuff. We need to get on this schedule,” and giving them that information visually in a presentation. My dad doesn't have a college degree, but because of the job that he was doing, he still needed to have those skills.
As a teacher, I'm creating presentations constantly, and your student, if they are going to college, there's almost 100% they're going to need to create a presentation with a group or individually in a literature class, in a science class. Maybe they are doing a presentation on an experiment they did and they're walking through that information. Maybe it's a biographical presentation. There is no reason that you can't have your student do one, even if it's just for you. They need to be able to know how to use those programs. Any one of them. PowerPoint, Google Slides. I think Google Slides is probably one of the more popular ones. Canva is what I usually use to create. It gives them the skills to learn how to present to other people in a clear way, in an interesting way. They start to learn that balance of, “How much information do I need on a slide? What is visually appealing? What works as far as distance? What colors work? Do I need a lot of graphics? Do I not need a lot of graphics?” Again, there's a lot of application with this. I mix and match it. I have students do presentations on setting, on mood and tone, on themes, on characterization, on historical context.
Again, so many ways to apply presentation that you can so easily do in your homeschool setting so that they're still getting those skills.
Have them present it to the family. It might feel silly, and then you would simply assess them on, “Hey, this was visually good. I could read it. I could see it well. Your actual vocal intonation, the way that you presented it was good. You didn't give too much more information than was on the slide, but you didn't read the slide word for word.” You may tell them, “Hey, you need to give a 10-minute presentation on this, and you should have at least five slides.” Give them those boundaries and see what they come up with. You may be so surprised.
Those are the four really awesome, easy ways that you can incorporate four, again, just ridiculously cool and easy assessments into your homeschool. They look great in their portfolios, and your kid is going to be set up so well moving forward no matter what they decide to do after they finish school.
Blog post on 4 core assignments- thenurturedbee.com/2022/09/08/creating-assignments/ Website- thenurturedbee.com
Anna teaches live online at True North Homeschool Academy. Her classes include: