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High School Teacher Shares Alternate Assessment Tools

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Tests and essays aren’t the only ways to assess student knowledge, says Amityville Memorial High School social studies teacher Matthew Tomasi, so he recently shared some innovative ideas with educators from across the state.

Mr. Tomasi is a member of the New York State Council for Social Studies and also belongs to the organization’s technology committee. On Jan. 19, he and five other teachers from Long Island to Buffalo presented a webinar, “Digital Project Based Assessments as an Alternative to Traditional Exams.” About 110 teachers and administrators, from elementary school through high school, joined in the videoconference to learn new ways to assess students in a distance learning and technology heavy environment. 

In his classes at Amityville Memorial High School, Mr. Tomasi has introduced the concept of choice boards, which give students different ways to demonstrate their knowledge of the social studies content. They can make videos, write poems or raps, or make journal entries. While he said students need to know skills for the Regents like answering multiple choice questions and writing essays, these don’t have to be the only options for students to show what they’ve learning in the course of a school year. 

For one assignment, he had students create a diary of daily life as a member of the Third Estate during the French Revolution. Students also made speeches from the perspective of different European countries after World War I, arguing if the Treaty of Versailles was fair or not. 

Two projects popular among today’s technologically connected students are the texting and hashtag assignments. Mr. Tomasi will have students create text conversations between two historical figures on a certain issue, and also ask them to create hashtags that represent the beliefs and philosophy of different people they have studied. 

Technology is an equalizer, he added, because of how many more options is give students. The goal is for courses to be rigorous and challenging, but also fun and engaging. It also gives teachers more tools to assess students in distance learning and hybrid learning models, in which many are attending class at home. 

In the webinar, Mr. Tomasi discussed how teachers can use portfolio assessments to measure student learning. Students can create digital portfolios using Google Sites, where they can keep their assignments. Teachers can choose to grade the projects one by one or grade the portfolio as a whole. 

Additionally, the work of Mr. Tomasi’s students was featured on the Citizen U Primary Source Nexus teaching research blog. To warmup for the enduring issues essay, they completed a social and emotional learning activity identifying issues that teenagers face in society. It fostered a discussion on how these issues are relevant in their lives. Students used Google Jamboard to share their thoughts, and after sharing the lesson and digital discussions on Twitter, it was then posted the Citizen U site. 
Monday, May 17, 2021