Formative Assessment Tools That Work!

Formative Assessment That Works!
A Post by AJ and Jamie Bianco 

In a time where our students are constantly being assessed, teachers and students often times avoid the new “A” word at all costs. It takes up valuable class time and often the results come too late to provide intervention to students in need. However, Formative Assessment is valuable, does provide timely feedback and is fun and easy for students and teachers.

What is Formative Assessment?
Formative Assessment is one of those “buzzwords” in education that cannot be ignored. When used as a tool, Formative Assessment provides teachers with valuable feedback and allows the teacher to assess the understanding of their students before the final test. These tools gives students the opportunity to show what they know before it’s too late to receive intervention. As teachers, it drives us to do better for our students and, if used correctly, will help our students have fun in class while still effectively learning the content that is being delivered. It has the ability to turn a mundane classroom into a class full of intrigue, excitement, and of course a little competition.

Why is Formative Assessment important?
While we constantly throw this term around, many people are still not exactly sure what Formative Assessment is and how we should use it in our classrooms. Formative Assessment should take place during the learning process so that teachers are able to monitor their students’ learning, and to provide feedback that will not only improve how they teach, but also how their students learn. When used correctly, teachers are able to work with their students so that they can take time to answer questions, review content that is hard to understand or to add new concepts on top of what was previously learned.

Educators have to understand that Formative Assessment focuses on our students’ at various points throughout the learning process, and because of this, the results often times should not be graded. By using Formative Assessment tools, we are allowing students the opportunity to show what they know, and have the confidence to say they don’t understand before the consequences of a final grade or project. When we show our students that we are interested in what they know early on, we give them the power to ask for help and place value on their effort throughout the learning process. Summative Assessments are to be used at the end of topics, chapters, or units, when teachers want an overall view of how well their students understand something as a whole.

High-Tech vs Low-Tech
While we always are looking for the newest and greatest tech available to use in our classrooms, we have to remember that not every school has the technology available to students on a daily basis. In addition, the technology based Formative Assessment tools often take time to setup and Formative Assessment can, and often should be a quick tool. It is because of this that we have included some incredible and easy-to-use non-tech tools, which are just as effective as any technology you can use.

Our Favorite Tools
Poll Everywhere - A great tool where you can set up different questions for students or participants to answer about a topic. This is an excellent way to start or end class. Participants can text in their responses or enter their answers via a user specific website, which is through Poll Everywhere. The results show up on the screen in real time and students get excited when they see their responses pop up on the screen.

Readiness Cups - This is a great low-tech tool to use with any age group. As students are working in groups, using Readiness Cups allows teachers to see how students are progressing through the given activity. All that is needed for this to be incorporated in your classroom is three different colored solo cups. The three cups will help you identify whether students are working well, have a question or are struggling.

Google Forms - We love Google Forms! Creating a form is easy and it can be used in so many different ways. Teachers can create surveys, exit cards, short answer responses or multiple choice questions. Using Google Forms helps teachers gather specific information about what their students know and where they need improvement.

Doodle It - Have students take a few minutes to draw what they know about the topic that you are learning about. Students can get specific, in depth or can be very basic. By having your students “doodle” what they know, they are able to open their minds and enhance their creativity.  

Kahoot! - This high-tech tool is a favorite among many teachers. By using Kahoot, students are able to compete against each other to show what they know. Students will answer the questions, and the quicker they answer, the more points that they receive. Teachers can create their own questions, or feel free to dip into the public Kahoots that are available.

Heads-Down, Eyes Closed - One of the fastest tools and most honest! Students put their heads down and close their eyes. The teacher asks students, “If I were to give you a quiz right now, how would you do? One finger = A, two fingers = B, etc. This FA tool asks students to evaluate themselves without the pressure of other students seeing their responses.

Think-Pair-Share - An oldie but goodie. Students have the chance to think about a question that is asked, turn to a partner or partners, and share what they are thinking. This is great for collaboration and allows students to listen to different points of view about different ideas. Teachers can use this to start their classes or after a concept has been learned, to check understanding and give students time to hold a small group discussion.

In Closing
Not all Formative Assessment tools work for all teachers, students or subjects, but each of these tools mentioned can become a valuable part of your teacher toolbox. They can add variety to your typical day and assist you in making informed decisions about what to do next. They are the “diamond in the assessment rough” and should be used to help benefit teachers and students alike. So now, thumbs up, thumbs down - Are you ready to make Formative Assessments fun?


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