Long before the polls close on mock election day in my classroom, I´ve thoughtfully planned out how I will assess what children have learned over the previous months. I follow these steps John Jarolimek and Walter C. Parker outline in their new book Social Studies in Elementary Education (10th Ed., Prentice Hall/Regents, 1996):

Step-by-Step
  1. Before we even begin to study citizenship and elections, I look at my objectives to pin down what I want students to learn. I think about processes, knowledge, and attitudes.
  2. I determine how kids might exhibit or demonstrate what they have learned, always remembering there´s more to learning than just paper-and-pencil formats.
  3. I create my scoring rubric, which includes three levels of achievement — proficient, adequate, and emerging — and make sure I indicate or describe what each level "looks" like (see sample below).
  4. I share the rubric with my students and, inevitably, rewrite descriptions that children find confusing.
  5. We try using the rubric, and almost always, I revise it as I make end-of-the-unit evaluations.

Sample Scoring Rubric
Proficient: In his or her written, oral, and project work, this student
  • shows considerable level of understanding of how the electoral process works.
  • frequently uses accurate examples to clarify explanation.
  • supports explanation with a list or diagram of the steps.
  • includes specific ideas about the role of the citizen in the electoral process.
Adequate: In his or her written, oral, and project work, this student
  • demonstrates adequate knowledge of how the electoral process works.
  • occasionally uses examples to clarify explanation, but some examples are questionable.
  • includes ideas about the role of the citizen in the electoral process that lack depth.
Emerging: In his or her written, oral, and project work, this student
  • addresses the electoral process but shows minimal understanding.
  • lacks connections to what we did in class.
  • includes few examples or limited or inaccurate ideas about the role of the citizen in the electoral process.

Tarry Linquist, Instructor's regular social studies columnist, is a teacher on Mercer Island, Washington, and author of Seeing the Whole Through Social Studies (Heinemann, 1995). She was recognized by the National Council for the Social Studies as National Elementary Teacher of the Year.