Every educator wants to improve their instruction and student learning, but it’s challenging while teaching a class or unit.
This is when formative assessments come into play.
You can use these evaluations to gather information about student needs, progress and comprehension, informing how you teach a skill or topic while doing so.
But to be effective and efficient, formative assessments should align with content you’re covering and your students’ learning styles. For example, if your students don’t hesitate to ask questions and share opinions, an assessment rooted in open discussion may be appropriate. It might not work for a reserved group.
To easily find appropriate formative assessment ideas, below are 20 examples.
Accompanied by a downloadable list to keep at your desk for quick reference, choose ones that best suit your students and teaching style.
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2. Four Corners
Encourage physical activity while gauging general student comprehension through this aptly-named exercise.
To plan, put a list of multiple choice questions together. Each should have four answers. Gather students in the middle of the room, reading each question and its possible answers aloud. Students then move to the corner that represents what they believe is the correct answer. For example, the top-left room corner can be option A, the bottom-left can be B and so on. Depending on how students move, you should gain an understanding of class comprehension.
3. Three Summaries
Challenge students to critically think by giving them this processing and review activity.
To check their understanding of a new idea, concept or content piece, ask them to write three summaries. The first should be 10 to 15 words. The second is 30 to 50 words. The third is 75 to 100 words. By asking students to vary the lengths of their summaries, they’ll have to remember different details as they refine their understandings. After, collect the summaries to see where knowledge gaps are.
4. Hand It In, Pass It Out
Run this short exercise to build topic comprehension.
It starts by posing a question with an objective answer that’s explainable in a few sentences. Without writing their names down, students should answer the question on plain sheets of paper. As they hand the papers in to you, quickly distribute them back to students at random. Explain what the correct answer is, so that they can grade the paper they’ve received. In doing so, they’ll improve their understanding of the topic. Conclude the exercise by taking a poll to measure how many papers had the right response.
Allow students to evaluate their own work, encouraging them to learn their own strengths and weaknesses.
Giving students time to formally review their own written assessments is an easy way of doing so. After completing the assessment, give each student access to an expanded rubric that details expectations. They should grade themselves accordingly. You can also ask them to hand in their completed rubrics, letting you note concerns that students may have about their own knowledge and comprehension.
6. Partner Quiz
Develop peer teaching skills in your class by running partner quizzes, which also allow students to assess themselves.
To launch a partner quiz, pair students together and provide an open question to tackle. As they work to solve it, encourage them to give each other corrective feedback — identifying mistakes and explaining how to reach proper solutions. Once the pair has answered the question, each student can independently work on a question related to the same concept. You can collect responses to wrap up the exercise.
Assess student understanding of a text-based resource through this solo and small-group exercise.
Each student should read the same written passage or resource, highlighting sentences that stick out as important or interesting. Once everyone is done, divide the class into groups of three or four. Within his or her group, each student must share the sentences he or she highlighted. Each group should be able to pinpoint the text’s main idea or theme in doing so, submitting an explanation so you can determine general comprehension levels.
8. Transfer the Concept
Help students grasp a new concept by having them apply it to a different area.
Let’s say you’ve recently taught how to identify protagonists and antagonists in novels. After determining students have a strong command of the concept, watch a clip from a show, movie or perhaps shorter media such as advertisements. Individually, have them write down who the protagonists and antagonists are to ensure their understanding isn’t confined to one medium.
Oversee a think-pair-share exercise to deliver three content-processing activities in one, easily assessing student understanding during the last stage.
As the name of this differentiated instruction strategy implies, start by asking each student to think about a specific topic or answer a given question. Next, pair students together to discuss their findings. Finally, each pair should share their thoughts with the class and accept questions from classmates.
Launch a jigsaw activity to teach accountability to each student while checking for understanding of a specific topic.
A mainstay part of co-operative learning, the method consists of dividing a task into subtasks and assigning one to each student in a small group. Group members then work to become “experts” about the information within their subtasks. For example, if the group is investigating multiplication, one group member may be in charge of learning more about the multiplication of negative integers. Each student returns to his or her group after this investigation process, sharing new knowledge. For assessment purposes, you can require each group to write a short report about the overarching topic you assigned.
11. Stop and Go
Allow students to give you real-time feedback as you teach with “stop and go” cards.
Purchasable or assignable as an art task, they’re two-sided cards — one green and one red. As you deliver a lesson, students should hold the green side toward you if they understand everything. If something’s unclear, encourage them to turn the red side forward. When you see red, stop and clarify — or expand upon — your points until you see green again. This should help you quickly assess if students are processing content as you deliver it.
12. Virtual Classroom
Capitalize on one-to-one device use, if possible, by automatically sending questions to students as you’re teaching.
With an online platform such as Socrative, you can write questions that correspond with your lessons, pre-scheduling them or sending them to students on-the-spot. Because they quickly and privately respond using devices, you shouldn’t have trouble eliciting answers from those who don’t typically raise their hands. And since you can send questions at any time using these platforms, they work for quizzes, activities, entry and exit tickets and many other forms of formative assessments.
Assess young students’ reading comprehension, or listening, skills by delivering this interdisciplinary formative assessment.
The activity, Illustrations, starts by either reading a story passage out loud or having students read it individually. Irrespective of who reads, each student must draw the content depicted in the passage. If the passage already has an accompanying illustration, you can show it to students afterward. This way, they can see how close they were.
14. Letters through Time
Organize this creative writing assignment to gauge comprehension in history class.
Students assume the role of a specific historical figure, relevant to course content, and pair with a classmate from the same setting. Each student in the duo must write a series of letters to one another. These letters should discuss an event or isolated time period that’s historically significant. As well as acting as a formative assessment, the exercise can effectively prepare students for essays, reports, long-answer tests and other summative assessments.
15. Entry and Exit Tickets
Gather information about how well students processed your most recent lesson by giving them five minutes to write an entry or exit ticket.
As a formative assessment, entry tickets should ask students to reflect on a specific class or exercise from the previous day. Exit tickets should involve students summarizing what they’ve just learned. Either way, you’ll receive small products that let you easily see how well students processed and retained key content, indicating knowledge gaps.
16. Two Roses and a Thorn
Determine content for your next class by concluding a lesson, presentation or chapter reading with Two Roses and a Thorn — a quick-to-deliver type of exit ticket and reflection exercise.
Each student must note two topics or concepts he or she enjoyed learning about, and another they didn’t like or still have questions about. They must hand in their responses before leaving class. If students share the same difficulties or dislikes, it may indicate a need to re-explore a topic or shift your approach to teaching it.
Deliver this activity if Two Roses and a Thorn doesn’t provide enough insight, or you feel your students need a deeper exercise.
Best used to end the day, Countdown requires students to create three distinct lists. They must state and explain (a) three ideas or concepts they learned, (b) two ideas or concepts that surprised them and (c) one thing they intend to start doing based on what they learned. Collective responses should indicate if students generally grasped a day’s material.
18. One-Minute Papers
Inject variety into your end-of-day reflection exercises by asking students to complete one-minute papers.
A solo writing task, you don’t have to take one-minute papers literally. Students can have a bit more time as they work to answer a brief question about the lesson. It should be an open question, which allows you to easily assess understanding. For example, you can ask students about (a) the lesson’s confusing areas, (b) any unaddressed queries they have or (c) what question from the lesson they think may appear on an upcoming test.
19. Metacognition Sheet
Pinpoint trouble spots and knowledge gaps before a summative assessment by having students answer specific questions about the given topic.
This starts by distributing sheets of paper with the following questions: (a) “Can you summarize the topic?”, (b) “How can you apply the topic?” and (c) “What questions do you still have about the topic?” Encouraging detailed answers should help you identify which students are struggling, and what their specific struggles are.
20. Roll the Die
Put a spin on reflection-based assessments by asking students to vocalize instead of write them, quickly taking notes as they speak.
To end class, start the activity by placing a die at each student’s desk. Each die face represents the beginning of a sentence that must be completed. Displaying or projecting them at the front of class, these sentences should be along the lines of: “I learned today that …” or “I’m still confused about …” Since there are six options and likely many more students in your class, you’ll hear a range of answers as students roll dice one after another, completing the corresponding sentences aloud. As a result, you should get a grasp of what students do and don’t understand about the day’s lessons.
Downloadable List of the 20 Formative Assessment Examples
Click here to download the list of formative assessment ideas to print and keep at your desk.
These formative assessment activities differ, but all deliver the same underlying benefits.
Students should grow cognizant of their learning needs, styles, strengths and areas of improvement. You should improve your general understanding of student learning, and identify problem areas to address before summative assessments.
As a likely result, they’ll be better equipped to self-assess and you’ll deliver more engaging, targeted lessons.
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