Testing Alternatives – How to Grade Without Giving a Test

Are learning opportunities diminished by the amount of time devoted to testing in your classroom?

My classroom is my happy place!  I  truly believe that my students would agree with this statement any day of the week except testing day.

Testing day radiates a different vibe.  Smiley faces transform into long faces with worry or boredom in their eyes.  The classroom is too quiet (oh, the irony of appreciating noise when it’s too quiet)!  During the test, some students are anxious or confused while others are daydreaming, which is one reason they all finish at different times and need something to keep them occupied.

How much time do students spend testing compared to the opportunity to interact and engage in learning?   The system is robbing  kids of their most admirable human characteristic-CREATIVITY?

The Not-So-Black-and-White Grading Options

Assessment Stations

  • Using assessment stations to assess knowledge is very similar to using learning stations to teach.  Set up a variety of stations with a task or a question at each station.  Students rotate around the room to visit each station and complete the task.  Provide an answer document on a clipboard for each student to record his or her answers.  Grade the answer document.
  • Try using these materials in assessment stations: task cards for any subject or skill, social studies and science sources (timelines, maps, primary resources, diagrams, experiments etc.), vocabulary words, or word parts.

Table Twitter

  • Combine interaction with assessment.
  • For basic Table Twitter, all you need is a large sheet of bulletin board paper with a question or task posted in the middle.  Students rotate to each station and record answers on the bulletin paper.


  • To make this into a graded assignment, I added a data sheet for students to record information.  Before tweeting, students record information/facts/details on the data sheet. 
    Students record information on data sheets. Then extend this information in a tweet.

    Then reflect on this knowledge by tweeting.  After rotating to each Twitter board, students can respond to each other.  This is a great way to practice for a writing assignment.  Tweets and responses include extended answer, while the data sheet contains the facts.   

Click here to check out Native American Table Twitter


American Student Idol

  • Tune up your lesson and groove to some funky facts. This is one of the most fun testing alternatives. It is a great way for students to remember facts for the rest of their lives.
  • Tips:
    • Choose a topic.  Any topic works!
    • Create guiding questions for research, or present the information whole group.  Students record information on a data sheet.
    • Group students.
    • Brainstorm popular songs.
    • Evaluate the song based on appropriateness, length, chorus and lyrics, beat and speed.
    • Make a list or rubric with the amount of required information to include.
    • Print the song lyrics and locate a karaoke version of the song.  Students can begin replacing original song lyrics with facts from their research.
    • Students perform their Student American Idol song for the class and vote on the best song.  The winner becomes your next Student American Idol.

Native American Idol– a step-by-step guide to turning research into a song.  

Walking Tours

  • Walking Tours are learning stations set up around the classroom where students research specific information on one topic.  Students become tourist as they travel to each station, analyze sources, and answer guiding questions.  This is the perfect activity for any history lesson.
Scholastic Runway Walking Tours


Teachers love this new approach!


  • Students can choose from a variety of ways to present information on any topic: PowerPoint, Prezi, storybook, collage, Sway, brochure, Canva creation, poster…the options are endless.


  • Presentation guidelines included in this unit     

Act It Out/Reader’s Theater

  • Make history come alive in your classroom with reader’s theater.   Students will find their voice in history as they read or act out information or facts on any topic.
  • Colonial Conquest is my most favorite Reader’s Theater.  My students audition for their parts and act it out in front of the class. This year I will require students to memorize their lines.  

What are some activities that you use as assessments?   Please share any ideas or feedback.

Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Walking Tours in the Classroom

Don’t teach, take a tour! 

Turn your teaching materials into learning stations, your learning stations into a tour, and your students into tourist.  If you already have slide shows, textbooks, websites, maps, charts, etc., you are one step ahead and ready to plan a walking tour in your classroom.


Walking Tours are learning stations set up around the classroom where students research specific information on one topic.  Students become tourist as they travel to each station, analyze sources, and answer guiding questions.  This is the perfect activity for any history lesson but can be used in all subjects.

Are you ready to put some pep in your prep?  Our tour to making lessons come to life is about to begin.


It’s easy as 1, 2, 3…


Congratulations!  You now have the opportunity to use all of those articles, images, websites, short videos, charts, quotes, PowerPoint, and games that you’ve collected throughout the years but never could find the time to squeeze into your lesson.

  • Print important slides from a PowerPoint.
  • Categorize sources into topics such as Establishing a Colony, Establishment of Jamestown, and Growth of Jamestown.
  • Laminate, laminate, laminate!
  • Include a variety of resources.
  • Include a technology station with videos or websites.
  • Give students background information on the topic or use a topic that you need to review.


  • Create a “Tour Guide” sheet with guiding questions or writing prompts for each station.
  • Use questions from your Scope and Sequence or assessment as guiding questions on the “Tour Guide”.
  • Divide students into “Travel Groups”.   These groups will rotate to each station, analyze sources, and record information on the “Tour Guide” sheet.
  • Set a timer for each rotation.  Be flexible!  I never seem to time this perfectly on the first round.
  • Interact with the students as they travel to each station.
  • Students love to talk!  Make sure it’s accountable talk.


  • Timing isn’t everything, but it sure can mess up everything.  Try to organize the same amount of information at each station to avoid having too much extra time at a station.  If one station includes a long video or lengthy article, another station can include a short article and several images to analyze.
  • Label or number each station.  Create a sign for each station and label the guiding questions accordingly.
  • Jamestown Walking Tour Stations
  • Location: Be creative!  Use bulletin boards, desks, hallways, sides of cabinets, under a table, side of teacher’s desk, on the teacher’s desk, computers, iPad station, reading center…options are endless.
  • Space the materials where all students in the group can view.
  • Teachers love this new approach!

Get to steppin’ with this fun walking tour of Jamestown: 

Jamestown Walking Tour


I, personally, despise grading a bunch of scribbled short answers,  so I created a brochure template aligned to the “Tour Guide”.  Students use the information gathered during the walking tour to complete the brochure.  I use this teacher-friendly rubric to grade.


Brochure Rubric Freebie 


You are all set for your tour!  Please leave feedback below to share your experiences.


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Louisiana Social Studies Curriculum

Are you looking for new ways to engage your students in social studies?  I truly believe that if a person does not “LOVE” history, he or she probably sat through too many boring history lessons.  Memorizing facts and studying for test after test is in the past.  Make history come alive in the classroom and create a love for learning!

The first step is done for you.  The new Louisiana Social Studies Content Standards open the door to a new way of teaching and learning social studies.  I love the detailed lessons and resources in the scope and sequence but still find myself spending hours creating lessons, assessments, and cooperative activities.   “I have so much extra time on my hands!” said NO TEACHER EVER.  For this reason, I decided to create interactive presentations and engaging activities that truly capture students’ attention.

I started this journey with the rollout of the new Louisiana Social Studies Content Standards.  My first projects included standard posters and standard checklist for grades 1-5.  This is a great way for teachers to post weekly standards and keep track of the standards taught.

I quickly learned that the 3rd grade Louisiana social studies teachers were starving for resources, and I was ready to serve.  Creating fun, cooperative lessons became a hobby instead of a job.  I am so excited to share Louisiana’s unique culture and history with you and your students through engaging lessons where students analyze sources, collect information, and construct responses.  Presentations, assessments, and activities are also included.  Click the image below to check it out for yourself.  Your students will thank you!

Since I teach 5th grade social studies and ELA, I accumulated many resources throughout the years, which is good and bad.  The good part is I have tons of materials.  The bad part is I have tons of materials.  The new scope and sequence on top of my plethora of materials made planning an interdisciplinary curriculum a nightmare.  The solution resulted in fresh, new ELA and social studies lessons.  Click the images below to view.


You can download this freebie by clicking the image below.

My goal for this year is to complete the third grade and fifth grade social studies curriculums.  Follow my blog and Teachers Pay Teachers store for updates that will keep your history lessons alive and save you time!  

All lessons align with Louisiana’s Scope and Sequence.