Quick Self-Assessment Checks with Learning Targets

Promote student self-assessments of understanding of a unit, lesson, activity, or learning target
49 teachers like this strategy

About This Strategy

Students can self-assess learning targets quickly by using these self-assessment strategies. By doing so, we promote students to identify if they understand or are struggling with the lesson, activity, and/or learning targets. These quick self-assessments provide an opportunity for reflection and can provide teachers with important information on students' understanding. Use the Sit-Kneel-Stand, Pulse Check, or Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down self-assessment strategies to promote self-assessment in your classroom.

Sit-Kneel-Stand Self-Assessment

Krystal Bankston
BetterLesson Instructional Coach

The sit-kneel-stand strategy is an informal self-assessment strategy that allows students to identify their understanding or how they are doing on a unit, lesson, activity, or in achieving a learning target. Students sit (if students think they still have a lot of work to do), kneel (if students think they made some progress), or stand (if students feel they mastered the topic). The teacher can then quickly scan the room to monitor progress and discuss students' self-assessments with them. Sit-kneel-stand engages students in informally keeping track of and reflecting on their learning, supporting metacognition and pride in work and learning.

Implementation Steps:

  1. Ask students to silently think about how they did during a particular piece of the lesson or activity while the teacher reminds students of the specific piece of the lesson or activity. This could be centered around specific learning targets, student behavior, practice, or learning.

    • For example, a teacher could ask students to:

      • think about how you did during the transitions of station rotation.

      • think about how well you added and subtracted numbers bigger than 10.

      • think about how well you did accurately completing the practice problems and if you understand the topic.

  2. Once students have internalized their self-assessments, have students move based on the following protocol:

    • Stand - if you feel you did well at or mastered the topic or task

    • Kneel - if you feel you made some progress but still have areas of improvement

    • Sit - if you feel you still need a lot of improvement or have a lot of work to do towards the topic or task

  3. Acknowledge how students have responded with statements like, "I noticed only three students stood, which means we still have some work to do on this topic or activity."

  4. Have all students sit. Call on students to share whether they stood, sat, or kneeled and why they self-assessed themselves that way.

  5. Lead a class discussion around how the class feels they did as a whole, what they think they can improve on next time, and what support they need.  

To learn more about this strategy, consult the EL Education Sit Kneel Stand Protocol on page 52 of this resource.


Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down Self-Assessment

Raul Gonzalez
BetterLesson Master Teacher

Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down Self-Assessment is a quick-check, low-stakes way for students to identify if they understand or are struggling with the lesson or activity. Anytime during class, the teacher can ask the students for a quick "thumbs up, thumbs down" assessment. If students are understanding the material or activity, they give a thumbs up. If they are struggling or need help, they give a thumbs down. The teacher can quickly scan the room to see if students are understanding the material, if they need to practice more or if more instruction is needed, and who may need individual support. This strategy can be used in any content or grade level.

Implementation Steps:

  1. Throughout the lesson or activity, pause and have students give a thumbs up or thumbs down based on their self-assessment of understanding or level of comfort with the activity or lesson.

    • Thumbs Up - if a student understands the material and does not need any help.

    • Thumbs Down - if the student is struggling to understand the material, needs more instructions, or needs help.

    • Optional - With lower grades, consider making an anchor chart explaining what each hand signal means (see resources below or read the Anchor Chart strategy to learn more).

  2. Once students have given their self-assessment response, move forward with the activity based on their overall responses. Generally speaking, this strategy is supposed to be low-stakes for the students, meaning that students should not be called out individually if they give a thumbs down to indicate they are struggling.

    • If the majority of the students give a thumbs up, continue on with the activity or lesson. Be sure to make a mental or physical note of students that gave a thumbs down and check-in with them at some point during the activity for individual support.

    • If the majority of the students give a thumbs down, more instruction or practice is needed.

  3. Implement this strategy throughout the activity for regular quick checks of student understanding.

This strategy can also be used to quickly assess if students understand instructions or expectations when beginning an activity or assignment.

Pulse Check

To use Pulse Check, students self-assess on objectives several times over a week or unit by placing a colored sticker where they think they are in regards to the objective, so that the class can see the progression in their understanding. Using different colors helps the students and teacher to see class trends, but keeping it anonymous supports the safe space for honest reflection. This strategy can be used in grades 3-12 in any content area.

Implementation Steps:

  1. Create an anchor chart or place on the board where the learning targets, standards, or objectives are listed for either a unit or a portion of the unit in a table format. See the resources below for an example of a Pulse Check anchor chart. The rows should be the learning targets. The columns should be the following:

    • Column 1: I'm struggling or I'm lost

    • Column 2: I'm starting to get it

    • Column 3: I feel confident

    • Column 4: I could teach someone else

  2. Provide students with colored stickers (i.e. the small circle stickers work great). All students should use the same color. Have students place a colored sticker in one of the columns (Columns 1-4) for reach of the learning targets or objectives listed. It may help to model this with students the first time.

    • Optional: Lead a group discussion around the student responses and what those results can inform.

  3. Throughout the unit or the portion of the unit, have students complete a self-assessment Pulse Check several times. Each time, students should all use a new color sticker, so that it can be easier to see classwide trends.

  4. Student responses to the Pulse Check can help guide instruction and review in the class, based on the student responses.

Distance Learning Use Case for Quick Self-Assessments

Students can self-assess their understanding or level of comfort with a specific skill during a virtual class meeting or virtual conference.  In addition, students can also self-assess during asynchronous work to provide the teacher with feedback on their levels of understanding and comfort. 

Implementation Steps:

  1. Determine which quick self-assessment you will use in the virtual setting: pulse check, thumbs up/thumbs down, or sit-kneel-stand. Consider which of these makes sense for asynchronous vs. synchronous sessions.

  2. Determine the focus of the self-assessment. 

    • Consider having students self-assess the skill or standard they have practiced independently. 

    • If you are teaching live, use the self-assessment during your teaching to gather feedback.

    • If students are self-assessing asynchronously, consider having them self-assess a skill they have been practicing.

  3. Determine if students will self-assess during a whole group session or during office hours/1:1 conferences.

    • If you are unable to meet with students as a whole group, consider having office hours or 1:1 conferences. Schedule these times with students. During office hours or conferences, consider using this self-assessment for students to provide feedback on their level of comfort/understanding with a skill. 

    • If students are working asynchronously, determine which tool you will use to gather students’ self-assessment data if applicable. 

      • For example, if you are using the pulse check or thumbs up and thumbs down, consider using a digital tool.

      • Consider using a digital tool, such as Google Forms to easily collect these self-assessments.

      • For students with limited technology, consider having them email you their self-assessment or completing a self-assessment in their packet.

  4. Provide clear expectations to students about the self-assessment. Consider showing students an anchor chart that explains the criteria for each, such as the one linked in the resource section. If you are not able to share the chart, share the criteria with students.

    • For students working asynchronously, be sure that they have access to the chart or a video explanation.

  5. Provide an opportunity for students to self-assess using your selected strategy.

  6. Collect student self-assessment data. Use the data to tailor instruction to meet students’ needs.

    • If many students rate themselves as not understanding, consider using your live time for reteaching.

      • If you are unable to meet together, consider creating a video to send that reviews the skill. See the “Using Video for Flipped Learning Environments” in the BetterLesson Lab for more information on leveraging videos.

    • Use the data to review, reteach, or move forward.

Special Education Modification

Nedra Massenburg
Special Education Specialist

Using tools like Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down, Pulse Check, and Sit-Kneel-Stand to have students self-assess their mastery of a topic supports students with disabilities by providing a safe, structured opportunity to engage in a lesson and develop their reflection and assessments skills.

Use of Self-Assessments requires teachers prepare for the skills required of students, specifically significant executive functioning (task initiation, prioritization, working memory, etc.) and emotional regulation skills.  In order to support students with disabilities in these areas, consider the following modifications:


  1.  Use visual aids, timers and verbal reminders to help students with task initiation and task completion when using the self-assessments.  Depending upon the number of students with disabilities present in a classroom, teachers should consider increasing the amount of time they spend on explicitly teaching norms of how tools the selected self-assessment. 

  2. Consider using other written, verbal and movement based methods to elicit feedback (such as the attached resources) to give students multiple methods to respond to prompts to check for understanding.  See “Self Reflection Tool Examples” in the resource section below for more information.

  3. Teacher knowledge and acknowledgement of student disabilities is key knowledge to use Pulse Check effectively. Teachers should consult with special education department administrators or special education teachers for information on specific disability types and needs present in a classroom.  This will help ensure that these students have appropriate accommodations or modifications to assess mastery of skills.

  4. Traditional paper-based, written methods of assessment may limit the ability of students with disabilities to demonstrate their learning. In conjunction with traditional assessments, consider giving these students the opportunity to demonstrate their learning through: conferences, take-home reflections, oral presentations or re-tellings, learning logs, graphic organizers, cloze exercises, visual/image representation, etc.   See the "Differentiation Techniques for Special Needs Students" in the resource section below for more information.

  5. If multiple teachers are present in a setting, consider having one teacher work in a small group of students with more intensive disabilities to help provide more targeted guidance on completing the self-assessment.

EL Modification

Shannon Coyle
English Learner Specialist

These strategies guide learners in the important academic skill of self-assessment. Learners are supported in determining where they are in understanding a lesson or topic. Teachers have the opportunity to see how how learners are feeling and can get an at-a-glance sense of which learning targets are in need of more practice. English learners benefit from guidance in self assessment as well as the non-linguistic, anonymous means of communicating. 

English learners need to read and rate in order to self assess. Learners may need to listen to feedback and share verbally their tracking documents. In order to support English Learners consider the following modifications:


  1. Ensure self- assessment tools are fair and accurate assessments of learners. Consider accommodating, modifying, or creating alternative assessments for English learners that aim to distinguish between linguistic and content mastery so their goals may be focused appropriately. Consider partnering with learners’ language specialist. See the "Using Informal Assessment in the Classroom" resource in the resource section below for more information.
  2. Use simple language in self-assessments. Numeric rating scales and thumbs up/down ratings are supportive of English learners. 
  3. Make charts accessible. Use simplified, student-friendly language for learning targets. Add graphics to support understanding of self-assessment columns, i.e. smiley faces, numeric representations, colors, etc. Consider re-using familiar self-assessment scale used in other areas for continuity and deeper understanding. See the “Descriptions of What English Learners “Can Do” at Various Language Levels” resource in the resource section below for more information.

  4. Preview and review learning targets and anchor chart. Ensure English learners understand the learning targets, self-assessment columns, and how to use the chart and stickers in advance of introducing them to the class. Check for understanding using language learners will comprehend after they’ve had an opportunity to use charts. See the “Leveled Question Prompts for Teachers of English Learners” resource in the resource section below for more information. 

  5. Perform 1:1 check-ins with English learners. Use independent work time to ensure learners are self-assessing correctly. See the "Teacher Tool: Leveled Question Stems" resource in the resource section below for more information.
  6. Consider adding language goals to content goals. Conveying knowledge is an important part of mastering skills for English learners. Use learner-friendly rubrics to evaluate language skills used to show content mastery.

Questions to Consider

Questions to Consider

  • How can this help you quickly assess students' understanding of the content or activity?

  • How could you use this strategy to discuss classroom expectations or behavior?

  • What is the purpose(s) of this protocol for students? If you need to modify it, how will you keep its integrity?

  • How does this protocol promote student-centered learning?

  • What will you be listening or looking for during this protocol?

  • What parts of this protocol could potentially be challenging for students?

  • Are there anchor charts or visuals you can reference or create to support the success of this protocol?

Coach Tips

For a quick exit ticket self-assessment, check out the "3-2-1 to Activate Knowledge, Reflect, and Self-Assess" strategy in the BetterLesson Lab.

Related Lessons

Explore the "Reasoning About Inequality Solution Sets" lesson by 6th grade Math teacher Carla Seeger included in the resources below to see how she uses Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down as a final check for understanding after a complex lesson.

Tech Tools

Pear Deck

  • Pear Deck is an interactive presentation and lesson delivery tool. Students use their devices to follow along with the teacher's slideshow on a classroom screen. Throughout, teachers can pause at points where they've added interactive questions and collect real-time data about student understanding. 
  • Pear Deck supports this strategy by allowing teachers to embed "Thumbs up, thumbs down" questions throughout a lesson or presentation. Students can drag a dot along a scale from "thumbs up" to "thumbs down," allowing teachers to respond in the moment to student understanding.