Formative Assessment Resources: Try Them Today, Tomorrow, or Sometime Soon

Recently, Teaching Channel brought you into classrooms where teachers and students are using formative assessment to adjust ongoing teaching and learning strategies to improve student learning:

While these videos take a deep dive into formative assessment, we also want to provide you with some quick tips and resources. These are some of our favorites:

Try These Today

These strategies are so simple and easy to do, you could try them today.

Hand Signals: Quickly gauge student understanding with hand signals by asking students for a thumbs up, sideways, or down to indicate their level of understanding. Another popular hand signal is Fist to Five, where you ask students for a 1 to 5 rating of their understanding.

Four Corners: In four corners, you ask a question and students move to a labeled corner of the room in response. Once students are in their corner, you can either use it to get a sense of the class’s understanding, or have the students stay in their corners for further discussion. While many teachers already use four corners for debates, by changing the type of question asked you can make this activity about assessment.

Exit Tickets: Exit Tickets are a great way to assess student learning. Students hand you a “ticket,” which could be an answer to a question or a more complicated set of problems to complete. As a middle school teacher, I loved using quick writes as exit tickets. Before the end of a lesson, I would think about a concept that my students may have struggled with, ask a related question, and give them two to three minutes to answer it on an index card. Check out the first few minutes of Julie Manley’s eighth grade classroom to see a quick write used as a pre-assessment.

Take notes! Note taking is a great way to keep track of student progress. You can take informal notes about common student misconceptions, great student thinking, or anything else you want to take into consideration. Keep it simple and use a notebook or a clipboard as Audra McPhillips does in her classroom, or try one of these note taking apps.

Try These Tomorrow

These formative assessment strategies are as easy to use as the ideas above, but they may take a little practice.

My Favorite No: Leah Alcala’s My Favorite No Strategy is similar to an exit ticket, but you look at the student work in the moment and use your favorite “no” (wrong answer) to clear up misconceptions.

The Stoplight Method: This is a fun and effective way to collect data on student learning and instructional decisions. Students post what they learned (green light), their ideas and questions (yellow light), and if anything stopped their learning (red light).

Use Journals: Instead of you taking the notes on student thinking, get the students to write down their thoughts. Use journal time to take a quick glance at the writing — as well as check in with students — giving you a chance to adjust instruction as needed. Watch Math Journals: A Record for Students and Teachers to see how Ms. Lassiter uses them in her classroom.

Try These Next Week

There are so many awesome tech tools to use in the classroom. Here are some ideas for how technology can help with formative assessment.

Video: Normally thought of for flipping your classroom, video can be used to create pre and post assessments if you add questions about the concept. Students usually love watching video, and you’ll be able to collect and analyze data. One free and fairly easy way to do this is with Google forms, where you can add YouTube videos. Here is a good list of other options to try.

Polling: Polling can be used to engage students while collecting data on student learning. While many teachers buy clickers, Sarah Brown Wessling embraces her students’ cell phones by using Poll Everywhere for text message polling. (Watch Sarah use Poll Everywhere with her students.) Or look for options that can be used on multiple platforms such as as Socrative, a tool Jim Sherred uses in his physics classroom.

Quizzing: If you really love interactive quizzes, take a look at Quia (Quintessential Instructional Archive), which provides a variety of tools, templates, feedback systems and shared activities and quizzes.

This list is certainly not exhaustive; a quick internet search will lead you to many resources on formative assessment. And, I’m sure you have a ton of ideas to share! Let’s keep this list going — please add your great ideas in the comments section below.

Gretchen Vierstra taught middle school for ten years in the San Francisco Bay Area. During her 15+ years in education, she’s also been a department chair, new teacher coach, curriculum developer, and policy analyst. She is an Education Content Manager at Teaching Channel.

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