Quick And Effective Formative Assessments

by | Sep 8, 2020 | Distance Learning, Educational Resources | 0 comments

Teachers use formative assessments in their classrooms to check students’ understanding throughout a unit. 

I find formative assessments to be very helpful to understand who needs more support during a unit or what lessons I need to reteach. 

Sometimes, teachers can get in a rut, and classes start to feel repetitive. To help you,  I’ve rounded up ten ideas for formative assessments in this post.

What Makes Formative Assessments Different From Summative Assessments?

Formative and summative assessments serve two different purposes. 

Formative assessments are used before learning or during learning to gauge what students understand and what they need more time to learn (or a different method of teaching to learn). 

Summative assessments are used at the end of the learning process to determine what information has been retained. Summative assessments are given at the end of a teaching unit.

What Are Examples Of Formative Assessments?


The Popsicle Stick Method – Simple, But Effective

While far from the most groundbreaking, the popsicle stick method of formative assessment has been proven to be effective and engages the whole classroom. 

The idea is simple – have all students write their name on a popsicle stick. Place all of the popsicle sticks in a cup and pull them at random to ask questions about the content. 

One of the reasons this is more effective than a “raise your hand” method is that it gets the whole class engaged, not just those who want to answer your questions. Some teachers remove the stick once it has been used, but that tells the student they no longer have to pay attention. It is better to put the sticks back in the container – that way all students know they might be called on.


Exit Tickets – Low Prep And High Reward

Using exit tickets as a formative assessment is incredibly effective. Exit tickets don’t take up much class time and give you concrete evidence of learning, which I always found helpful to see which students are ready to move on and which might need a small group lesson.

Exit tickets are questions that you ask your students at the end of the class period (or as bellringers at the beginning of the next class.) If you just want to write a question on the board, students  use an index card, post-it, etc., to write their answers. They then turn those cards into you as they leave. Also, teachers create exit tickets with short activities for students to complete and turn in.

I like exit tickets so much that I made my own. You can grab them here!


Illustration – Fun For One?

Choosing a student to illustrate what you’ve learned is a fun way to gauge how much of the lesson/story they retained. 

The only issue with this method of formative assessment is that it only involves one student, leaving the rest of your class to wait (not-so) quietly until the student is finished. 

An easy way to resolve this issue is to have each student create an illustration on a piece of paper. You can also put them in groups of two or three and have them work together. 

This method is one of the more time-consuming ones, but I think it works well if you are reviewing a story or moment of history.


Analyzing Homework – No Extra Class Time Used!

In total contrast to illustrations, analyzing homework and prior quizzes to determine how your students are doing is a simple and tangible method of formative assessment. 

The reality is, you are already looking at homework and prior quizzes! All you have to do for this method is to take some notes on who is struggling with what. I’ve always found that a good spreadsheet can help me determine which students need more guidance or what methods of teaching I need to switch.


The Interview Assessment – Time Consuming, But Worth It

Who doesn’t enjoy a good interview? An interview assessment is a great way for you to see exactly what your students are retaining and what they need more help learning. 

The issue with this method is that it isn’t realistic to attempt to have a 5-minute interview with each of your students. 

With that in mind, you could use this assessment when you feel confident about most of your class, but have a few students you want to check in on.

You could also pair this assessment with a different assessment, like the illustration assessment. Have most of your students do the independent assessment while you interview the few students you want to check in on personally – or you interview as they are working.

TeachingIdeas4U 10 Quick & Effective Examples of Formative Assessment Pin


Keep The Question Going – Classroom Discussion At Its Finest

With this formative assessment, you ask one student a question and hear their answer. You then ask another student if that answer is one that seems correct. After that, you ask a third student to explain why that answer is correct or incorrect. 

This method of assessment is effective because it keeps all students on their toes and helps the discussion flow organically without much work from you. If a student is incorrect in their answer, make sure that the answer is clearly given, either by a student or by you.


Student Journaling – A Quiet And Reflective Assessment

Few things compare to a quiet classroom at the end of your class period. You can accomplish this by passing out student journals and having them journal about what they’ve learned.

You can use this journal to assess how your students are doing. I’ve found that this journal is a great place for students to ask any questions that they might feel shy asking in front of the class. Be sure to follow up with these questions and answer them in person to help your students understand what the content is that they are struggling with. 

You can use these student journals as a way to determine who needs individual support too! 


The 30-Second Share – Get Your Timer Out!

When you use the 30-second share method, one of the most important things is that you teach your students to stick to 30 seconds. We all have students who would take over class time if they could, as well as students who don’t have any desire to take part in class discussions. 

Demonstrate to your students what it is you are looking for in a 30-second share and practice with them to get the most out of this method of formative assessment. 

When used correctly, the 30-second share can be a very effective way of clarifying what was taught in the lesson and verifying that students understand what they learned.


Think – Pair – Share – Tried And True

This strategy is one that most teachers have heard of and used, but it bears repeating because it is so effective. 

In this method, the teacher asks a question and students are given time to think about it. 

Students are then paired up to discuss their answers to the question and determine if they agree or not. 

After a certain amount of time (which varies depending on the topic), the pair is given time to share their discussion with a larger group of students, either the whole class or another pair of students. 

During this discussion time, the teacher should be walking around the room, listening to the discussion, and guiding where needed. 


Thumbs Up/Down/Middle – The Fastest Formative Assessment You’ll Find

Nothing compares to the quick poll version of a formative assessment. 

With this method of assessment, the teacher asks the class to close their eyes and then asks either one question or a series of questions. Students respond to the question(s) with a thumbs up, thumbs down, or thumbs middle. 

This quick poll is an easy, no prep, no time way to assess how your students are understanding the concepts learned in your classroom.

What About My Online Classes?


I know many of you are teaching students virtually and are asking yourselves how you can use formative assessments online. 

If you are wanting to use a student journal, use a Google Doc! Students can type into their documents and share them with you. You both can have easy access to their journals this way.

The 30-second share method can be used during a virtual classroom discussion. Just make sure you still use a timer.

My exit tickets have both printable and digital versions, so you can use those in your online classroom as well! 

With just a few modifications, most of the methods of formative assessment that are discussed here can be used in your online classroom. 

Do you have questions about formative assessments? I’d love to help you! You can comment below or send me an email to ask any questions you may have.

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Over twenty plus years, my educational career has spanned four continents and two states, as well as eight grade levels!

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