Self Assessment– Levels of Understanding

Have you ever wondered how you can get your students to care about their grades? I wonder, have you taught them what their grades mean? As a class, have you walked through what it looks like to meet the goal, or be skill developing in a skill?

Self assessment is a key part of establishing our community of learners. In my crew I want students to understand the goal and where they are in the journey toward achieving the goal. I strategically teach students how to self assess. When students can be honest with themselves about their current level of understanding, then they are able to create appropriate goals for themselves. In order to do that students need to know what each level of understanding means.

Grades have to mean something to students.

My school uses numbers to grade students. I have taught 1st to 6th grade and in each grade level we have talked about what our grades mean. It is essential that students understand what their grades mean. They need language to talk about the grades. Students have to know what it looks like to meet a learning target. They also need to know what it looks like when they are getting close and making progress.

Here is where the Levels of Understanding come in. Students need to understand each level of understanding so they can accurately self assess where they are in learning the new skill.

For example…
My 3rd graders are learning how to find the area of a rectangle. The learning target is I can use multiplication to find the area of a rectangle. CCSS 3.MD.C.7
Students are meeting this learning target if they are able to do it by themselves.

It is also important students know how they can exceed the learning target. This gives students a natural extension to any activity.

How do I start?

  • Choose one skill most of your students know about. For example, doing a cart wheel, making a TikTok video, or playing a video game.
  • Start a conversation about the skill and levels of understanding.
    • Here’s how mine usually sounds… “Hey guys! Did you know I don’t know how to do a cartwheel**? (They laugh at me) So, I’m a 1 at cartwheel. You might be thinking, “What’s a 1?” Well it means I need a lot of help. Actually it means I need a lot of practice. You might also be a 1 if you’ve never even tried to do a cartwheel and its brand new to you.
      Now, I bet there are a lot of you that are 3s. Raise your hand if you can do a cartweel without any help! (See all the hands!) Great!! You are a 3 because you can meet the goal of doing a cartwheel.”
      Okay, you get the point. This will continue through the different levels.
      **I usually choose cart wheel because I can’t do one. It gives confidence for the kids that can and make those who can’t feel okay to be a one with me!
  • Create a quick anchor chart with some simple words to describe the levels.
  • Choose a learning target that you’re currently working on.
  • Start a conversation about the learning target and what it looks like at each level.
  • Ask students to self assess. They might right their number down, hold up a finger, or whisper it to a friend. Obviously, you’ll choose based on the status and safety of your class community.


It is less important that students know the terms “meeting” “exceeding” “developing” and way more important that they can explain what those levels mean.

The goal is they are comfortable doing this with skills and learning targets that are challenging. So, you’ll have to practice a lot with skills that feel easy. Think of ways to work in self assessment through out your whole day. Reflect on how your class did at gym, how they did at meeting expectations, & even their coloring! Make it fun and normal to self assess.

Posters of Levels of Understanding

I have created a resource to use in my own classroom of these levels. I have made them available to you on TeachersPayTeachers. Use these as a starting point for your conversations! Feel free to add and change these. Make these your own that meet your crew’s needs!

If you do purchase I’d LOVE to hear how you’re using it in your classroom. Please share how it’s going. As always, reach out if you have questions. I’m here to help and work together to help our students!

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    Hi, I'm Mona!

    I help 1st – 5th grade teachers like you develop a classroom that lays the foundation for engaging and rigorous student led math instruction.

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