So here I am again.

I am always inspired by those who find time to write during the school year. I manage to write during the summer and always have the best of intentions for continuing throughout the school year. And then the school year actually begins, and I watch as my best intentions get replaced with mounds of planning and marking.

So here I am again.

What a year, or rather, what an ending to the year. I finished the last of my year-end meetings less than one week ago. Usually at this point I am brimming with ideas for planning and writing, but right now I find myself a little bare. Perhaps it is because I am mentally exhausted, but more likely it is because the fall brings uncertainty, and I am not quite sure how to effectively plan for the varied possible teaching environments in our Covid world.

So instead of looking to the future, I will share something from the past. As I think about teaching online these past few months, I know that there were many stages that I went through. It began with survival mode, and then slowly built to a system that was manageable. There were many challenges, and perhaps I will discuss more of those in time, but the one that I would like to focus on today is authentic assessment. Whether assigning numbers, letters, rubrics marks, or comments, at some point we all need to look at student work and give feedback of some sort. My challenge with online learning has been how to determine if the work that I am assessing is truly the work of that student. Our platform was Google Classroom, and I eventually had all students write their assessments while on Zoom, but the form of the assessments varied through trial and error. I had students write answers in Google Docs, I had students write answers in Google Forms, and I had students write answers with paper and pencil and then upload their work to Google Classroom. At some point I would love to talk with those in other schools about what worked for them, but for now I will describe what I think was my most successful assessment.

This past year I taught grade 6 and grade 8 mathematics, as well as grade 7 science. I taught one of the grade 6 mathematics classes and another teacher taught the other two. While teaching online, one of our grade 6 mathematics units covered fractions, decimals, percentages, and order of operations. For the final assessment, we recognized that we needed to come up with something a little different beyond just creating different versions of the questions that had slightly different numbers. We wanted to create a question where it would be a little more obvious if students gave each other the answers. After much thought (and editing), we came up with something similar to this:

**Create and simplify an expression. The complexity of your expression and accuracy of your simplification will help to determine your understanding of the concepts. See criteria below to guide you. **

*Evidence that you are able to select appropriate mathematics when solving simple problems in familiar situations, apply the selected mathematics successfully when solving these problems, and generally solve these problems correctly:*

- the expression includes both operations (addition/subtraction)
- the expression includes
**2**terms that are being added or subtracted, with at least**one**of the following: 1 mixed number, 1 proper fraction, 1 improper fraction,**AS WELL**as 1 decimal number - the expression must be correctly simplified at each step
- where relevant, the final value must be simplified and shown as a mixed number

*Evidence that you are able to select appropriate mathematics when solving more complex problems in familiar situations, apply the selected mathematics successfully when solving these problems, and generally solve these problems correctly:*

- the expression includes both operations (addition/subtraction)
- the expression includes
**3**terms that are being added or subtracted, with at least**two**of the following: 1 mixed number, 1 proper fraction, 1 improper fraction,**AS WELL**as 1 decimal number - there can be no common denominators in the expression
- each denominator in the expression must be different
- the expression must be correctly simplified at each step
- where relevant, the final value must be simplified and shown as a mixed number

*Evidence that you are able to select appropriate mathematics when solving challenging problems in familiar and unfamiliar situations, apply the selected mathematics successfully when solving these problems, and generally solve these problems correctly:*

- the expression includes both operations (addition/subtraction)
- the expression includes
**4 or 5**terms that are being added or subtracted, including at least one each of: 1 mixed number, 1 proper fraction, 1 improper fraction, and 1 decimal number - there can be no common denominators in the expression
- each denominator in the expression must be different
- the expression must be correctly simplified at each step
- the final value
**must be able**to be simplified - the final value must be simplified (and shown as a mixed number, where relevant)

We were fairly pleased with the results. Although we had a second question in the assessment that dealt with percentages, we had students who included percentages in the order of operations question (such as add or subtract 20% of 50). We thought that the student work showed us who understood the concepts from the unit and who was able to thoughtfully choose values that worked well together. I would definitely try to incorporate this “create your own question” strategy into assessments next year, whether in school or online.