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.