5 Ideas for Alternative Assessments in Middle School


Multiple choice test answer sheet, with some bubbles filled in.

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Test, quiz, exam… whatever word(s) you use, I am here to tell you that these types of assessments do not give you an accurate picture of what your students have learned, or should have learned.
Traditional or standardized testing formats often use multiple choice, matching, and even short answer questions. These types of questions are limiting in many ways; in how students are able to respond, in the type of data you obtain, and in the type feedback (or lack there of) that students obtain. They also only target a specific bank of knowledge, rather than the skills students need to be successful.


“If assessment is to be a positive force in education, it must be implemented properly. It cannot be used to merely sort students or to criticize education. Its goals must be to improve education. Rather than ‘teach to the test, we must ‘test what we teach.'” – Lockwood and McLean

Regardless of the subject you teach, there are specific skills needed to achieve the learning outcomes. In my social studies class, it is necessary for students to engage with the material presented, think critically, make connections (both historical and current), draw conclusions, and support those conclusions with sound reasoning. These 
skills are what should be assessed.

You might be thinking, that all makes sense but how do I create an assessment like that?


Check out the ideas below!

“Assessment should be deliberately designed to improve and educate student performance, not merely to audit as must school tests currently do.”
– Grant Wiggins, EdD., President and Director of Programs, Relearning by Design.

Teacher sitting at her laptop with notebooks beside her, trying to write an alternative assessment


5 ideas for alternative assessment in middle school – 

  1. Journals: At the end of class, provide students 5-10 minutes to record their take-aways from the lesson. Can include connections they made with the material, keywords, etc. These could be written or drawn.
  2. Summaries: Allow students to write a summary of the unit, including the main points, opinions, reactions, etc.
  3. Portfolios: A collection of all the formative assessments (activities that show how a student is progressing)  throughout a unit.
  4. Adding an option to explain on multiple choice tests: Students may interpret answer choices in different ways. Allowing students to justify their choice gives them the opportunity to show the connection they made. It also gives you  more insight into what they understood.
  5. One-Pager Activities: These are my FAVORITE alternative assessment! A one pager activity allows your students respond creatively to a topic. They can be as structured as you want/need them to be. Students can be given checklists of what needs to be included, or you can given them a blank piece of paper and ask them to show you what they learned. I have found that students actually get excited for one pagers, unlike traditional tests that cause many students anxiety.     Here are some examples of one pager activities.

Students completing assessment

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Unlike traditional or standardized testing, alternative assessments give you the opportunity to provide more meaningful feedback to your students. It’s not just a grade.

Providing feedback to students is more time consuming that merely giving a grade, but it is so much more beneficial for you students. Rubrics can make this easier!

So, why not give it a try?  It has not been a standard year in education, so why make your end of year assessment standard?!




Edutopia. What Are Some Types Of Assessments. Retrieved from

Bradley, B. (n.d.). Using Alternative Assessments. Retrieved from