Design Summative Assessments for a Live Virtual Classroom

Explore strategies and tools that will work best when assessing your students during live virtual-teaching sessions.

Grades K-12 12 min Resource by:
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Providing joyful and engaging learning opportunities through distance learning will help keep your students fresh and coming back for more. Performance assessments are more flexible and motivating, and they facilitate the development of key life skills, such as creativity, communication, collaboration, and critical thinking. Student creation is naturally differentiated when it allows for voice and choice. If students are verbal learners, they can share their voice or perform their ideas. If students are visual-spatial learners, they can create and present an infographic, poster, diagram, or drawing. A student who is learning English may be provided with opportunities to play background music or show their work without speaking. In other words, students can choose a format that matches their preferred mode of communication. This removes barriers in the communication process and allows the students to find the best way to communicate what has been learned.

Live virtual teaching creates a perfect platform for performance assessment—a live opportunity for students to demonstrate what they know. As you design your live virtual learning performance assessments, provide students with options to give them voice and choice in the decision. Keep in mind the situation that your students may currently be in and the resources to which they may have access. Also consider having students work collaboratively with students of their choice. Different students have the ability to engage at different levels during distance learning. Allowing students to choose who to collaborate with and how to contribute creates more windows than doors. The activity and format will vary depending on the content you teach, but here are some common examples of student performance assessments to consider.

Live oral presentations can be very practical and engaging forms of performance assessment in a live virtual learning environment. It is important for students to have a clear understanding of what makes an engaging and effective oral presentation. Students should be given guidance with rubrics and clear indicators of success. Ignite Talks and TED-Ed Student Talks are two popular and engaging forms of oral presentations that can be used with students.

Ignite Talk

  • An Ignite Talk is a specific type of oral presentation where the presenter only has 5 minutes to speak on a specific topic. They speak using 20 slides that change every 15 seconds. The slides move automatically.
  • Ignite Talks are supposed to be fast and very engaging.
  • Ignite Talks are focused on one specific topic or subject matter.
  • Most Ignite Talks are done by a single person. A collaborative group can put together several Ignite Talks on different, specific topics that are part of a larger overarching theme.
  • Ignite Talks can be made using Google Slides or Microsoft PowerPoint and shared during a live virtual session.

TED-Ed Student Talk

  • A TED-Ed Student Talk is another specific type of oral presentation. TED-Ed Student Talks are longer than an Ignite Talk, but they are still a short presentation on a topic that the presenter has a personal experience with or is an authority on.
  • TED Talks are very engaging and well known.
  • If choosing to show a model TED Talk, make sure to choose something that is age-appropriate and watch it before you share it with students.
  • Have students start by writing an essay or speech in an opinion paper format while considering how they might incorporate technology and visuals.
  • Use the TED-Ed website to help you get started.

Mock Interview

  • Students can stage an interview with one or multiple stakeholders on a topic or idea.
  • Students should create and answer the questions.
  • Encourage students to practice the mock interview prior to the live virtual learning session.
  • The mock interview platform allows students to convey understanding through multiple perspectives and lenses.

A live newscast may be similar to a dramatization and skit, but a newscast tends to be more structured and usually contains the following elements:

  • Current information is used.
  • The information is important because it is relevant to the community to which it is presented.
  • It often contains some kind of conflict or controversy.
  • The information within the story can lead to a change in behavior and/or can have an impact on a large number of people.
  • It may contain information about famous people.
  • Some newscasts contain human interest stories, which appeal to human emotions.

Students can create a modern, up-to-date newscast, or they can create newscasts from different eras and regions.

Students can create individual or collaborative dramatizations, skits, or even short commercials to teach and deepen understanding of main ideas and key concepts.

  • Provide clear guidelines and expectations for students. You will want to allow humor and student voice, but it is important that students are also respectful.
  • Have students practice, self-reflect, and improve prior to their performance during a live virtual session.
  • Consider recording the performance so that it can be added to a self-paced learning course, shared with students who may not be available for the session, and/or shown to the performers for self-evaluation.

Music and dance teachers are well-versed in live performance assessments, but how might teachers in other subjects incorporate music and dance performance assessments into their live virtual teaching?

  • Students can create music lyrics (poems) about different subjects and topics and perform them to an authentic audience during a live virtual session. The lyrics don’t need to be accompanied by music.
  • Have students find music that exemplifies a specific idea, concept, or feeling and share the music along with their written and/or oral explanation.
  • Physical movement and dance can be used to share understanding of a topic or subject.
  • Students can use a combination of music and dance.
  • Here are a few resources to show how dance can be incorporated into K–12 curriculum:

A picture is worth a thousand words! Let students use visual art to demonstrate their learning. Students can pre-create a piece of visual art and present it during a live virtual learning session. Art can be done on an analog or digital platform. If you provide this option for students, keep in mind what resources and materials students will have available to them. Below are a few digital resources to use with students to create visual art:

You may even have students with a desire to draw or create live. Many times this type of art will go hand-in-hand with an oral presentation. A student might be drawing and explaining at the same time. However, you might have a student who can share their understanding without words. Here is a video with an example of an artist demonstrating her understanding of Princess Diana through live sand art. Encourage creativity!

There is no better way to get feedback then to have someone play your game. Students can create analog or digital games to demonstrate their understanding. Games can be played during a live virtual learning session. During distance learning, games need to be digital or made so that they can be played while using a live virtual platform. Keep in mind the supplies and materials to which students have access. The list below includes suggested technologies that can be used to make a digital game:

Students learn best when creating through their own ideas. A one-pager is a creative response to a learning experience where students can creatively apply and demonstrate their learning. Students can work individually or collaboratively on a Digital One-Pager. During your live virtual learning session, have students or groups share their Digital One-Pager and possibly get feedback from other groups. If having students work in groups, consider assigning specific roles.

Have students follow this format for their Digital One-Pager:

  • Use either Google Slides or PowerPoint.
  • Include the following:
    • Title: Include concept and unit of study/topic.
    • Border: Include some type of border to frame the One-Pager; the border should represent the topic.
    • Connection/Reflection: Display your reactions, interpretations, or connections to the topic. What stands out?
    • Visual: Include visual images that have a strong relationship to the section (no more than three images).
    • Visual Word Cluster: Create a word cluster of important vocabulary related to the section.
    • “I/We Believe” Statement: Include a personal statement on what you believe about the section. Begin with “I believe…,” or if working in a group, “We believe…”
    • Poem: Write a short poem that captures the essence of the section.
    • Costa’s Level 2 and 3 Questions: Include two or three questions and answer them. Download Costa’s Levels of Thinking
    • Name: Students write their name(s) in the notes of the slides.

It will be important to give clear guidelines around digital citizenship and media literacy prior to having students create Digital One-Pagers. They need to give appropriate credits to sources and have accurate permissions.

Students learn best when engaged, and who better to engage them than their peers. Allow students to become the teachers and leaders in your classroom. Unlike many teachers, students are used to communicating in a digital world. Many of them grew up FaceTiming grandparents and having their baby pictures on Facebook. Take advantage of your students’ knowledge of entertainment and smash it together with grade-level standards and curriculum.

  • Give students choice over what and how they will be teaching.
  • Allow students to work collaboratively or independently.
  • Students could create lessons or mini-lessons.
  • Let their peers provide feedback and be an authentic audience.

Students can be asked to create models or complete simulations to demonstrate their mastery of a concept. Models and simulations require students to apply what they have learned at the highest levels, and the process typically requires a high degree of problem-solving and analysis—both critical skills for students to develop. Models can be created with physical materials or designed digitally. In the case of simulations, you might have students create their own simulation or complete one that is already available online.

The list below includes some examples and suggested places to start exploring:

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