Formative Assessment Strategies

This is a collection of effective assessment strategies that I have been gathering from teachers and fellow coaches. I hope you find them useful in your day-to-day instruction. If you ever want some help integrating any of these strategies, please let me know!

Put your relevance objective to the test! Try to implement at least one formative assessment in every lesson that ties directly to your daily objective.
Note Card Checks
Note cards work well for quick, writing based, formative assessment. By either collecting them and browsing responses, or roaming and checking at student desks, they can provide a quick tool to measure student learning. Here are a few notecard strategies

1--Exit Cards: Students do a quick write to a given prompt during the last few minutes of class. Notecards work well for this. By collecting and quickly browsing the responses, you can identify where students stand. This could be tied directly to your relevance objective for the day.

2--Homework/Reading/Prior Knowledge Check: do the same at the beginning of class, quickly scan cards and identify homework slackers, strugglers, and those that get it. Sometimes it will help to have several different planned activities depending on the results

3--Relevance Objective Check: Have students write your relevance objective on a notecard at the beginning of class. Before they leave, they need to do a quick exit card to answer, explain, or elaborate on it. Collect and assess to direct instruction the following day.

4-- Summary/Question – at any point in a lesson, have students use a notecard to do the following: Side 1—write a statement about a big idea that they understand about the content; Side 2—write a question about something they do not fully understand.

Learning Signals
These methods can help students indicate their understanding by using quick, visual signals.

5--Hand signals—for example: thumbs up (got it), thumbs down (don’t get it), thumb sideways (I sort of get it but…)

6--Stoplight triangle—create a triangular paper “stoplight” with one side green, one red, and one yellow to indicate their understanding as with the thumbs.

Here is how to make one
Fold a square piece of paper into four triangles like below left
Cut along the fold indicated in black
Color three of the triangles RED, GREEN and BLUE
Fold into a 3-D triangle and paperclip to hold
Students can turn their “stoplight” to indicate their understanding at any time during the course of a lesson
Students can keep it folded flat in their notebooks when not in use

Vocabulary Strategies
These strategies will work in any subject area and can also help students find relevant connections with the content vocabulary. Walking around, inspecting student work, asking questions and allowing time to share and discuss are crucial for tapping into student thinking to assess where they stand.

7--Frayer model—take a notecard or sheet of paper and divide it into four quadrants Definition, Characteristics, Real life Examples, Non-examples. Write the word on the other side. Students complete, then share.

8--Word Sort—give students a vocab list, have them cut out the words, then organize them into categories that make sense to them either individually or with a partner or group. They then share and justify their choice.

9--Dump and Clump (see attached sheet) –Students are given a bank of words to put into their “dumpster.” They then sort the words into categories and give each category a title.

10--3x3 Vocab (see attached sheet) students organize words in the blocks anyway they wish. Then, they have to use the three words in column one down in a sentence. Continue on in various patterns. Share and discuss.

TECH NOTE: Most of these strategies would work quite well on interactive white board. Have one group complete the activity in front of the room on the board.

Other Strategies for Quick Assessment
11--Whip Around
“Whip” around the room and have students make a statement or ask a question about the learning at any point during a lesson. Note any questions on the board as they arise. If another student does not address the answer, it can be addressed after the activity at some point during the lesson.

13--Stand and Deliver
All students stand up and do the same as a whip around, but in a more random fashion by raising hands. Once they have made a unique contribution (statement, question, answer to another student’s question) they can sit down. Proceed until all students are seated.

14-- Group Homework Check
Students work in groups to share homework responses and select the most appropriate, all students sign off and submit. Also a great timesaver for grading homework!

15--Group Lottery
Groups work together to solve a problem or discuss a prompt. Each group member is assigned a number. Teacher randomly selects a number and that person must articulate the group discussion to the class.

16--Post it Question
Students use post-its to indicate any questions they may have. These are put on the edge of their desk and can be addressed when students are doing independent work.

17-- Think Pair Share/Turn and Talk
Students turn to partners, discuss a given prompt, then share with the class. Sometimes this can follow a brief writing or journal activity.

18--Analogy Prompt
Have students write an analogy about a concept to show their understanding and make connections “ is like because _”

19- A-Z list
Have students work in pairs or small groups to identify a sentence, phrase, or question about content for each letter of the alphabet

Technology Tools For Formative Assessment
20-- Response Devices—From multiple choice, true false, lickert scale rankings and even text answers, these can provide you and your students instant feedback for class discussion or quick check quizzes.

21-- Titan Pad—Students can discuss a prompt with a partner or small group in a safe online chat area, then post a collaborative response. Teacher can see response as well as chat contributions to assess understanding. ( )

22--Crocodoc--allows students to mark up a piece of text collaboratively. This is a great tool for assessing and teaching content literacy. ( )

23--IResponse with IPod devices- Instantly create quizzes or surveys and send them out to student devices. Provides instant feedback and even monitor student performance.

24--Google Docs—Create a brief Check For Understanding form, survey or quiz and embed it on your website. This would work well for an entrance or exit check as well. ( )

25--Linoit –an online post-it-board where you create a webpage and students can post their own stickies and view those of others.( )

26--Webspiration/Inspiration – have students work individually or in small groups to design flow charts, webs or other visual outline of a concept or topic, then explain/justify their representation to the class. ( )

27--Quizlet and Quia –create interactive online quizzes that give instant results. These sites also have hundreds of pre-made quizzes available for free. ( and

28--Voicethread –create a dynamic online discussion where students can respond in text, audio or video. ( )

29--Blogs – an online journal where students can reflect on learning, make connections and ask questions about material covered in class. (

Related Links:
What is Formative Assessment?
Collected Research on Formative Assessment