Thursday, August 29, 2019

Games for Assessment- Guest Blog Emily Compton

Games for Assessment- Emily Compton

Doing my podcast announcement a little different today. I'm sharing a post featuring a guest blogger, Emily Compton. Emily was so kind to chat with me on The Everyday Art Room and as she was talking all I could think is... wow, we need to have visuals as well. So, here are the visuals and more to Emily's Story. 

I met Emily Compton at the NAEA convention 2019 in Boston. We were both presenting a carousel presentation on Games for Assessment set up by Jennifer Dahl. Our presentation was packed... so much so that people lined the walls, they were sitting on the floor and they were spilling out the door. That meant that we could not go from group to group talking about our subject. Instead, we presented the whole group. That was a benefit to me because that meant that I got to hear what the other presenters had to say. Emily Compton had some amazing ideas and I was thrilled when she agreed to do a podcast with me. 

First, let's give you a little insight into Emily Compton.

What is your background?
I finished my 10th year of teaching elementary art in Indiana at Pleasant Crossing Elementary in May. But due to my husband's job, we just relocated to Pennsylvania this summer.  I just started at a new position teaching elementary art in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania! I am both incredibly nervous for such a big change and really excited to get to bring my assessment games to a new group of students.

Who has inspired you?
I’ve worked with some amazing art educators that have helped me hone this curriculum and these art assessments over the years. The team of art teachers in Clark Pleasant Community School Corporation in Indiana has collaborated with me on a lot of these assessments. 

Danielle Keough (left) is a huge inspiration in all things art education (she even made this amazing cake!) and is an amazing curriculum writer. These assessments are strong because they are based on a really strong, scaffolded art curriculum.

Beth Smith (right) really encouraged me to start presenting these assessments and actually did the first few presentations with me. I would have never been able to get up in front of other teachers without her encouragement.

OK... Tell us about Assessment in Art:

I’ve been exclusively using games and manipulatives to assess my elementary students in Art for over four years. In this structure of assessment, students complete a game-like task that practices an art skill, like using primary colors to show how to make secondary colors for example, with me one on one. While a student plays the game I am able to observe and interview the student about their knowledge. This practice feels like a game to the student while allowing me to use a really strong research-based method of assessment that allows students to showcase their knowledge of a topic through logical and coherent conversation and activities. This kind of assessment is actually used frequently in kindergarten classrooms with pre-readers. With a few adaptations for older learners, this method of assessment is the perfect complement to a visual subject and has transformed my art classroom into a more fun, positive place that builds strong student/teacher relationships, is efficient, authentic, growth-based, and accessible for students with special needs.

I have three different styles of games. Many of my games are magnetic manipulatives used on metal cookie sheets. These are great because the pieces all stay with the game when stored.

I also have some games that use a magnetic spinner and a pizza pan with a game mat on it. These games usually have a worksheet that goes with it where students record the information they receive from spinning.

Finally, many of my games have Velcro-backed pieces manipulated inside a file folder. 

When assessing a skill in art I used to create a lot of worksheets like this.

But if you think through it, I was actually assessing many more skills than sorting colors. In filling out this worksheet my students had to be able to find the correct crayon which required some persistence with my crayon buckets (if I’m honest). This was difficult for my students with ADHD or other special needs. Then, once a crayon was selected, students had to be able to locate the correct section to color with the crayon which requires some reading. This was difficult for my low readers. Holding the crayon and coloring required some fine motor skills, also difficult for my students with special needs. Attention to the task and willingness to complete the entire worksheet also required attention to detail and, unfortunately, for all of my learners also took significant time out of their art-making. This worksheet created a lot of barriers for my students that didn’t involve the necessary knowledge being assessed.  Once I acknowledged these shortfalls, my first assessment game looked like this.

While simple in design, it overcame many barriers for my students and focused their energy on the desired content for assessment. Because it involved sorting pieces, my students automatically assumed it was a game. I watched them play with the pieces, read the categories to them and assessed their understanding while they played. It was simple to put together and simple to execute. This was a game-changer in my classroom! From there, I started brainstorming ways to make every worksheet into a manipulative. Over time, my assessment games became more intricate, with magnets and mats for students to put their pieces on instead of handwritten labels, but the concept remains: Get students to manipulate and sort visuals instead of writing, coloring, or answering quiz questions.

What Materials do you use for your assessment? 

I make most of my games and game pieces on Microsoft Word and print/laminate/cut them out. I have a few of the game pieces I’ve made available on TPT.  I either assemble my games as file folders or as magnetic pieces to be used on metal cookie sheets. Generally, I make six copies of each assessment. I love, love, love Dollar Tree. I absolutely cannot live without the cookie sheets and pizza pans from that store. They are cheap which means they are smaller and more lightweight than traditional bakeware. They stack really nicely and all fit on one bookshelf in my classroom so my students have easy access to all of my games at any time. I bought a few pans at a time as I needed them, but I’m probably up to about 60 pans from Dollar Tree at this point! The other two items I always keep on hand for making new assessments or repairing damaged pieces are adhesive Velcro dots and a roll of adhesive, flexible magnetic strips. Finally, a nice game addition is a magnetic spinner. I lucked out and found them at the dollar store years ago. I haven’t been able to find them since. These, from Amazon, are similar to the ones I use. They are the priciest of the materials I have listed, but I think they are worth the investment. I have 6 spinners I use interchangeably for multiple assessment games in multiple grade levels. I have had them for 5 years and they are still going strong! Finally, I recommend considering game storage for easy access. I store all of my games on one bookcase in my classroom so they are out and always accessible for my students. My students enjoy these games so much that they frequently will play with the assessment games as their free time in the art room.

What are the big concepts covered when using these assessments?

These assessment games cover the elements of art for grades K-4 and move into some deeper critical thinking including art history and art criticism skills for 5th grade. Each assessment is linked a scaffolded learning target. I have free downloads to the learning targets I use for each grade level on my website. Students are able to track their progress on the learning target throughout the year and show growth in art skills. The games partnered with the learning target yield the student’s art grade for the year. As a result, I no longer have to put grades on the backs of artworks or require a specific skill show up in a student’s finished piece.  I used to have mixed emotions about the elements of art because artists usually don’t stop to think through which elements they plan to use to make a piece. Art making is a much more organic process, but the elements of art allow students to build a foundational knowledge of the choices artists make. It allows them to know why their choices work/don’t work in the artwork so they can grow as creators. I used to require my students to use a specific element in their work so I could assess their understanding. Now, my students don’t have to use an element of art we’ve been studying in their artwork at all. However, they can show me they understand foundational art skills with these games.  My students are building art knowledge and skills that help support the art-making process, but don’t have to follow strict “rules” in their work. By the end of their elementary art career, my students have a strong knowledge of the elements of art and a strong track record of making art as creative thinkers and makers.

OK... you want to know more about this lady... right? Well here are the ways you can. 1st you can check out her website, Let's Play a Game. Then, you can check out her Teachers Pay Teachers page... you guys, why reinvent the wheel? Use what she has already created and tested. Then, check this girls IG account out. She just started it so be sure to follow! Finally, if you want to connect Emily directly, she invites an email to, and checkout our podcast on Everyday Art Room.

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