Using Pretests to Gauge Vocabulary Understanding

We recently gave our math pretest to our 5th grade students and decided to not only use the tests as data about their understanding about math, but also their understanding about math vocabulary.

Each student had their highlighter and math binder with them while they took the test. When they encountered an unfamiliar word, the students highlighted the word. At the end of the test, they wrote down the words in their binders. This allowed them to reflect as learners about what words they need to focus on to improve their understanding of our upcoming unit.

Example of a student’s pretest and the words they highlighted.

To further be able to collect data about the vocabulary needs of the students, we created a Google Form for them to share the words that they did not know.

The data gave us a lot of insight into whole class needs. By looking at the spreadsheet and doing a simple ‘command + f,’ we were able to see that 12 out of 18 students did not know what numerical expressions are.


Or that 10 students are not sure what parentheses are.


This gave us an idea of how to effectively co-plan with the EAL teacher to reinforce the learner’s understandings.

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