The Heroic Classroom: Assessment

By Christa Rawlings (MEd in IE; Grade 6/7  Teacher, Learning in Depth Teacher, Twitter @HeroicClassroom)

Welcome back to: The Heroic Classroom.  Over the course of the school year I am on the hunt for two things:

1.  Reflections on my lessons and how various Heroic Qualities present themselves.

2.  Observations of how/if students recognize Cognitive Tools in action and how they put the tools into use themselves throughout the school year.

I hope you continue to follow along on our IE adventure!

NOTE: Are you new to Imaginative Education? Explore the range of posts about it on this blog!

The Heroic Classroom: November 6

Heroic Quality of the Day: Assessment (not a Heroic Quality, I know)

I often use cognitive tools to assess my students daily on the depth of their understanding.  This can take different forms.  To begin with, I take time at the beginning of the school year giving my grade 6/7 students a snapshot of what Imaginative Education is all about.  I want them to understand my approach to their learning.  I feel strongly that giving them a small understanding of how the cognitive tools of IE are effective will serve them greatly as they move on through high school.  Providing students the tools gives them a map to dive deeply into any subject.  Using the toolregularly will keep them engaged in anything they choose to study.  As part of my snapshot lessons on IE, I hand out a Heroic Quality list and a Binary Opposite list. have a list of the Cognitive Tools on the classroom wall as well.  Throughout the year I ask them to refer to these lists frequently.   

Assessment using these lists and tools can look like the following… 

Quizzes:  At the end of all of my quizzes—Math, Socials, you name it—I add a question.  Often, it is based on the Heroic Quality or Binary Opposite list (which they keep out for quizzes).  For example, What is the Binary Opposite of Electricity and why?  If I get a response like ON/OFF, LIGHT/DARK, etc I know that this student has minimal understanding of our lessons.  If the student responds with SERIES/PARALLEL or CONDUCTOR/INSULATOR, I know that the student has a general understanding of the lesson.  If the student responds with CLEAN ENERGY/RENEWABLE ENERGY then I know the student has a much deeper understanding of the concept. 

Free-Photos / Pixabay

Using the tools this way at the end of a quiz just makes for a more rounded assessment.  Sometimes I will ask them to make up a joke about…. Fractions! This is always my favourite way to dig into who really grasps the concept. Because, of course, the more you know about something the more clever the joke. Why did 1/5 go for a massage?  Because he was two-tenths!! 😀

Projects: As with my quizzes, adding various Cognitive Tools as a part of the criteria to bigger projects gives me a much clearer idea of who has really dug into the subject matter and who is just spouting off wikipedia facts

Here are some ideas of how to incorporate the Cognitive Tools into bigger projects…

  • Try including some form of Literate Eye to demonstrate your understanding of… the Japanese Internment during WWII or Sentence Structure.  
  • Include some form of Collection to demonstrate your understanding of… Chemical reactions or Properties of a Triangle.  
  • Include a metaphor to demonstrate your understanding of  Place value or the excretory system
  • What is the Binary Opposite of Adaptive Radiation? List the reasons why?  This model will work with any of the tools.  The more mismatched the Cognitive Tool and the topic seem. the more interesting the results and the more you learn about the students. 

Essays/Novel Studies As with my quizzes, adding criteria for novel studies that includes things like:    Why not have an entire essay built around the Binary Opposite?  

pixel2013 / Pixabay

Here are some examples…

  • List three Binary Opposites in the novel. 
  • Explain the significance of each pair of opposites to the main character and provide proof from the novel.  
  • How was (insert Heroic Quality here) demonstrated in the novel or Tesla’s experiences with Edison or examples of water displacement.
  • Explain the significance of each of these Heroic Qualities COMPASSION, STEADFASTNESS and TENACITY to the plot of the novel. 
  • How does the Heroic Quality IMPARTIALITY move the story forward?  
  • If the Heroic Quality was changed to MODESTY, how would the story be altered?  
  • Explain how the Binary Opposite STAGNANT/ACTIVE was demonstrated by civilians during the War of 1812.   

These are things the student can’t find in an online summary of the novel or the movie version of an historical event.  This is true assessment because it needs to come from the student.  They will not be able to google these things.  They will have to think and prove their thinking to you.  Using the IE cognitive tools as an assessment doesn’t rely on memorization of a text, but rather what the student actually absorbed and engaged in with that topic.   

An end of the day check in: The end of the day check in is one I do daily.  The students are asked to:  Tell me which Cognitive Tool I used in the lessons helped you understand… fractions or plate tectonics?  This often looks like the kids lining up on their way to pick up their bags and tell me what tool and which lesson it helped with that day.  I get a very, very clear picture on which students were really engaged and met my goals for their learning.  I can tell which students absorbed surface lesson and I can tell which students have gone above and beyond my expectations for what they would get out of the fraction lesson.

This takes practice so don’t be discouraged if it isn’t happening the way you hoped right away.  I often start in the Fall by giving them three choices of tools.  I list them on the board in the morning. This is also helpful for me by anchoring my practice and ensuring I am constantly aware of the tools and incorporating them into my day.  Just for fun, I tally up the ‘winning tool’ and announce it before they head out.  I often will tell them which tool I thought was most valuable that day to see if it matches with the student’s choices. 😀 

I’m hoping that you can take some of these ideas and dabble with them.  Have a little fun with them.    

Snapshot of the ideas above: 



  • Adding various Cognitive Tools as a part of the criteria to bigger projects:
  • Include some form of Literate Eye to demonstrate your understanding of  the Japanese Internment during WWII
  • Include some form of Collection to demonstrate your understanding of … Chemical reactions 
  • Include a metaphor to demonstrate your understanding of  Place value  
  • This will work with any of the tools.  The more mismatched the Cognitive Tool and the topic of the project seem the more interesting the results

Essays/Novel Studies:

  • List three Binary Opposites in the novel.  Explain the significance of each pair of opposites to the main character and provide proof from the novel of the Binary Opposite.   
  • How was (insert Heroic Quality here) demonstrated in the novel or or Tesla’s experiences with Edison or examples of water displacement 
  • Explain the significance of each of these Heroic Qualities ____, _____, _____ to the plot. 
  • How does this Heroic Quality ________ move the story forward?   If the Heroic Quality was changed to _______ how would the story be altered?   
  • Explain how the Binary Opposite ______,_______  was demonstrated by civilians during the War of 1812.  

End of the day check ins:  

  • Tell me which Cognitive Tool I used in the lessons helped you understand … fractions or plate tectonics?  How did it help you understand fractions better? 

Need to catch up? Take a look at some of the other posts from my Heroic Classroom series:

#1 Introduction to The Heroic Classroom

#2 The Heroic Classroom – Trust and Ownership

#3 The Heroic Classroom – Flexibility and Story

#4 The Heroic Classroom – Perseverance and Purpose

#5 The Heroic Classroom – Endurance

#6 The Heroic Classroom – Patience

Other posts by Christa Rawlings:

Check out this post in which I describe why I use cognitive tools in my teaching:

The Selfish Teacher

Using Cognitive Tools to teach Place Value to Grade 6 and 7 students: Place Value and Really Big Numbers

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2 thoughts on “The Heroic Classroom: Assessment

    1. Thank you Kieran,

      You have made all of the difference in my career. Thank you. Happy New Year!


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