Assessment Strategies for the IB PYP

Hello again! If you’re following on from part 1 of this conversation, Assessment and Student Agency in the IB PYP, then welcome back. If you missed part 1, you can link to it above if you wish.

Assessment in the PYP classroom has so many different looks to it. Some schools where I have taught have to complete the standardised testing that is required by their school district but most IB PYP schools use a myriad of tools to assess the children, including teacher created tests, formative assessment tools and activities and,of course, the unit summative assessments.

I have listed some of my go-to favourite inclusive formative assessments that encourage self & peer assessment, promoting agency and, not only assess the children’s’ knowledge but also the ATL (Approaches to Learning) skills that they are developing on their journey to becoming avid, independent life long learners. Take a look and hopefully you’ll find something new to try out in your own classroom. I’ve created a FREE printable sheet of these strategies and a few tools that you can take into your classroom today if you’d like.  Read on! 

Back-to-Back- Brains: quick &  easy to implement in all subject areas. 

  • Have the children stand back-to-back, each with a notepad or dry erase whiteboard in hand.
  • You will ask the class or group a question.
  • The children will write or draw their answer on their whiteboard then turn to their partner, share and compare.
  • This is followed by a quick reflective discussion about their experience and observations. Did they answer correctly? How could they build on this answer? Were there different perspectives? Who used the best strategy to solve the problem?

Function: Useful for a quick assessment of their knowledge gained from a recently learned strategy, such as maths, or recalling information from informational text/our unit etc. It is out-of-your-seat and hands on, including the children in the feedback.

Follow up: Use this as a way to include the children in evaluating their understanding and choosing to have additional group time with you for more guided review if necessary.

Human Graphs: Encourages collaboration as a group or whole class. 

  • I love this one almost as much as the kids do! It is simple and gets them up and out of their seats.
  • Simply present the class with a problem that relates to the class and that will require ordering and them have them put themselves into a line in order, or as a human bar graph, in order.
  • For example: create a human graph to show who has dogs, cats, or a combination. Or, line up in order of shoe size.
  • Another take on this is to provide each child with a number. Then, they can group themselves according to prime numbers, multiples of 3 etc. There are so many variations on this theme.
  • Want to really challenge them? Have them do this in complete silence!!  Oh yes, it is fun to watch, believe me and you really see the leadership skills from a few coming forth.

Function: This assesses communication skills, thinking skills and social skills on top of knowledge, depending on what you are sorting and ordering.

Follow up: Great for taking anecdotal records. I have filmed this activity in the past and watched the process in action. This presents a great opportunity for reflection of the class working together, working in groups and self assessment as to who participated well or not.

 Chain Link Challenge: a fun pre assessment that allows peer feedback

  • Present the whole class or a small group with a question.
  • The children will then write their name and their answer on a strip of paper which you’ll have provided. ( I like to have a basket of them on each table group to allow for multiple questions or for anyone who wishes to change their answer/makes a mistake etc.)
  • Pass a stapler around the group and have each child create a paper chain by stapling their strip of paper into a circle and looping it to the next circle and so on, thus creating a paper chain of answers.
  • The questions can vary from group to group along a common theme.(Example: give 3 adaptations of an elephant or a rabbit etc) Or you can have one question for everyone in the class.
  • This chain of answers will then be shared and discussed in their small groups, each person chatting about their answers, reasons, strategies etc. It allows for a lot of peer feedback.
  • The chains can then be rotated around different groups for a share out of perspectives.

Function: The reflective discussion ensuing is valuable from the teacher’s perspective in that it allows you to gauge similarities, differences and any glaring anomalies. From the children’s perspective, they can see how others think like them or differently. I strongly encourage the attitude of respect within this activity, thus reinforcing it within our class community.  You can then gather those chains later for a closer look at the answers for your own assessment needs. They make a lovely display too.

Follow Up: If using this activity as a pre assessment strategy, it is interesting to use it as the “before” in a before and after scenario. This allows the children to reflect on their own progress and how well they used their peer’s feedback to guide their next steps. I have found that it takes several attempts to intentionally use peer feedback as a positive and deliberate source of reflection for planning next steps. It often isn’t taken seriously in the beginning.

Ticket Out the Door: Easy to use as self assessment and FOR assessment.

  • Function: Easy and well known, this method is basically an exit ticket that reinforces reflection, which in turn encourages student ownership of their learning and allows the teacher a snap shot of how each student feels about their learning for that day or week.
  • Use the language of reflective thinking within the tickets that you create to reinforce the reflective thinking process.

This is a simple reflection about a specific lesson, a day, a week or even a completed unit.


  • 3 things that you learned
  • 2  connections you made
  • 1 question you have
  • 1 sentence to summarise your learning

These can be written on sticky notes and posted on the door on their way out at the end of the day, thus allowing you to quickly read over them. They can be printed onto exit slips, completed and put


into a basket on their way out at the end of the day, or you can have the children write in their reflection journals and share their thoughts with the class during a reflection time. 

Reflection Journal: Informal and builds the habit of reflecting. 

  • I have used these for years now. I learned about them in an IB workshop, from a teacher from Canada and I LOVE them. In its simplest form, it is a notebook that we use as a journal of our thoughts and reflections as we go through the school year. I feel that I should write a separate post entirely on the Reflection journal, so watch this space. You can also find the ready made, structured versions of these journals in my store for all age levels. These are designed to develop reflective thinking skills with a focus on each unique Learner’s Profile.
    Pre K-1st grade Reflection Journal


    Action steps in the Early Years Reflection Journal
    Reflect on each unique Learner’s Profile: Grades 2 & 3 Reflection Journal


    Reflect on Progress: Grades 2& 3 Reflection Journal

But, keeping it simple for assessment purposes, you can bring the focus of reflection for a particular day to one thing and have the children write their thoughts as sketches, a brief paragraph, traffic lights with an explanation for their self assessment or one of the following:

  • A specified (key) concept
  • An additional ( related) concept
  • A line of inquiry
  • The central idea
  • A skill or sub-skill

Function: With student agency being reinforced through a mostly self directed journal, this tool gives the children the training and practice with self reflection and goal setting and owning their own experience as a learner. It is incredibly simple and flexible to implement. I have added the creativity of bullet journaling and doodle notes over the years to keep all learners engaged.

Perspective Peek: Great pre assessment tools with a focus on perspective. 

  • For early years: Give the children a selection of pictures that connect with your central idea. Then ask them to sort the pictures into groups with the question: which pictures connect? Example: If you are looking at people who help our community. Give them pictures of a police officer, trash lorry, crossing guard etc. and have them sort the pictures into categories of those who help and those who don’t.
  • You can then share their results and have them chat about their thinking, how they compare with their friends’.
  • For grades 2-6: Give the children a list of statements prior to a new unit, asking them if they agree or disagree with each statement. Example: Volcanoes are a part of the rock cycle. They will then explain their perspective based on their background knowledge.
  • Discussing these answers puts a wonderful focus on perspective too. Throughout the inquiry or at the end of the unit, hand the sheets back to the children and have them reflect upon the statements once more and see if their opinion has changed with their newly acquired knowledge.

Function: These are fantastic as a pre-assessment and a post assessment and can be used with any subject. I like to use them as we unpack our new unit and again reflecting upon our knowledge at the end. They are a form of self assessment for the kids too, once again promoting greater student agency.

Inside/Outside Circles: fabulous for promoting peer input and its’ value to self assessment. 

  • An oldie but a goodie! Another great activity that gets the kids up and out of their seats, communicating and forming and changing opinions based upon peer feedback.
  • Have the children form two circles.
  • One circle will be around the outside of an inner circle.
  • The circle on the inside will be facing out and the circle on the outside, facing in, so that each child is facing a partner in the opposite circle.
  • This can be used a number of ways:
  • 1. ask a question to the class and have the inside circle give their answer to their partner on the outside circle.
  • The outside partner will then respond with their feedback.
  • Then, the outside circle will rotate to the next partner, so that both inside and outside circles have a new partner.
  • Ask either the same question and answer again, asking the children to assess  how their answer changed based upon the feedback of the first partner.
  • 2.  ask the children to give a brief summary of what they know about a particular concept or line of inquiry.
  • This can be something to do with your unit of inquiry, a math strategy or reading skill.
  • Rotate the circle, sharing with other partners and sharing perspectives.

Follow up: Ask the children to reflect on how other people’s opinions and feedback helped them to further develop their understanding OR led them to ideas for action steps towards self improvement.

Driver’s Seat: Allows self directed differentiation across the curriculum

Function: I love this method of differentiation because it truly puts the kids in the driver’s seat with their self assessment. They own their judgement of their own ability and how best to push themselves. It allows you to see who has a firm grasp of their current ability and who needs guidance with gauging where they are.

This method takes more prep but it is well worth it. Many of my complete units of inquiry in my store  allow for this method of assessment with the differentiated activity sheets. Basically, you are allowing the children to choose the level of activity that they will complete rather than setting the guided groups for them. It does take time and training.

  • You will need to have 3-4  differentiated sets of activity sheets/task cards.
  • With a class of 32, I usually copy about ten of each set.
  • Place each set in a corner of the room.
  • Explain to the children that they will choose their own task based on their own ability and if they find that their first task is too easy or too challenging they can move to a different corner.
  • We really stress that we ALL have strengths and challenges and we must do what helps us. It can take a few times before all the kids understand this and become true to themselves. It’s all part of the process. 

Follow up: After the activity, have the children reflect on their feelings as they completed the selected level of tasks. Did they choose a well balanced level? Was it too challenging/not challenging enough? What did they do to assess a level suitable for themselves? You can also, follow this up with a similar reflection AFTER you have marked the finished work and the children can see their results based on grades/teacher feedback.

 Four Corners: More advanced within the reflection cycle.

  • This technique is another move around the room activity.
  • The children are presented with a statement or a question ( related to the UOI , maths concept, grammar etc) and they will then move around the room, settling on one corner, where the teacher has already placed a statement or an answer.
  • They are then given time to share their reasons with others in that corner why they opted for that same corner before the next question is posed and they move again.

Function: It gives the teacher an overall view of the number of children who are migrating towards the “correct” corner and how many are way off the mark. It also promotes the children’s’ communication skills, confidence in their own decision making and critical thinking skills.

Follow up: As the children become adept at this form of self directed assessment, I love when  see then doubting their initial responses and then moving. Whether they are right or wrong, it really emphasises the reflective thinking process as they draw conclusions based on others’ opinions and feedback, analyse their next move based on the selection of possible answers and then make a solid decision! Fun stuff!

Co-Plan the Assessment: Assesses the children’s’ awareness of content covered as well as their knowledge of the content. Great for summative assessments

Function: This is self explanatory as it involves the children in the planning of the assessment itself. It allows you to assess their awareness of the concepts and content covered as well s assessing their knowledge and understanding of the content and concepts. By asking the children to plan the assessment, they are being asked to reflect on what they learned throughout and to take ownership of their learning outcomes. There is a graphic organiser included in the free materials with this article.

  • Use a graphic organiser to guide their thinking.
  • Work in small collaborative groups to plan the content of the assessment. These groups can be differentiated , thus ensuring a differentiated assessments.
  • Ask the children to think about WHAT they have learned and HOW they can demonstrate their knowledge and understanding.
  • With older children, its easier to do this on a Google doc so it can be shared and discussed and created as a rubric, checklist or combination.
  • I like to make sure they include the key concepts and ATL skills in addition to curricular content.
  • With younger children, this can simply look like a checklist of expectations.

Phew! You made it all the way through! 

I do hope that you’re able to use some of those strategies in your own classroom. The good news is that you have a whole year to try them out, tweak them to suit you and your kiddos and fine tune a few that resonate with your group of learners as they progress through the process of reflection and assessment. The beauty of it all, is that it can be used across the school, becoming more and more familiar with the students as they make their way up to the upper grades.


P.S. If youre looking for more professional development with practical strategies for agency in assessment, you may be interested in my on-demand video based workshop right here, Essentials for Inquiry: Agency In Assessment. 


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