18 July 2017

What are Formative Assessments and Why You Should be Using Them

                       How to Use Formative Assessment in the Classroom

We all use summative assessment in our classroom in some form or another.   Summative assessment is used after a unit or time of period to assess how much learning has taken place.  We use summative assessments after a chapter or topic has been taught.  We use them on our weekly test.   But how much FORMATIVE ASSESSMENT are you using in your classroom?

I am sure you use some form of formative assessment without realizing you are even doing it.  When we walk around our classroom and monitor learning, when we ask our students higher order thinking questions, or when we have students to give us an explanation to their learning.  These are all types of formative assessment.   But we must ask ourselves as educators is there more we could do to assess the learning taking place in our classroom.

Formative assessments are different in that they are taking place during learning and do not need to be graded.  Formative assessments are used to check for understanding along the way during teaching.  They can be used in all content area and both teachers and students can use formative assessment.  They help us as teachers to see if we need to backtrack and reteach a part of a lesson. Also, it helps us to see which learners in our class are grasping the concepts being taught and which are not.

With the ever growing list of things a teacher has to do, formative assessments should not consume that much time and should not cause a burden on the teacher or the student.  It should be a quick and simple check that is:

          1.  Engaging
          2.  Meaningful
          3.  Provides Feedback to Both Teacher and Student

So, what are some different ways you can provide engaging and meaningful formative assessments in your classroom?  Below are a list of my favorite formative assessments to use in my class.

Exit Cards

I have seen a variety of ways to present these and heard them called different names.  But they all have the same purpose.  The teacher poses a question, the student answers, and gives to the teacher when leaving the room.   They can post it on the door, slip it in a box, write it on an index card, or many other ideas.  The teacher then quickly glances through the answers and sorts the results into two piles, the ones who understood and the ones who need more instruction.

In the image below I posed the question 300-129 to my class.  I wanted to check their regrouping skills.  The exit card/ticket allowed me to clearly see where each child was messing up and where they were performing the skill correctly.

Exit Tickets


Teacher walks around the room whiles students are either working independently or in groups and marks on a clipboard a simple check by each students name.  They put a check in the column for yes if the student seems to have grasp the concept, or put a check in the not column in they need further instruction.

Beach Ball Throw

Students love this activity and it gets the kids moving.   You purchase a cheap beach ball at your local party store.  Write questions on the ball.  Toss the ball to a student.  Where their right hand lands, they answer the question about their learning.   Then, they toss to another student in the class.   This continues until everyone or most everyone has had a turn.

Beach Ball Throw - Formative Assessment

Idea Graffiti

Students are placed into groups of 4-5.  Each group is given a piece of butcher paper.  Each student is given an different colored marker.  They write a complete sentence about something they learned about the lesson.  The different colored markers help identify the students in each group without using names.

The image below shows how my students use the formative assessment of Idea Graffiti when responding to the novel, The War that Saved My Life.

Idea Graffiti Formative Assessment

Yes or No

This is just putting a spin on thumbs up or thumbs down.  Glue yes and no on popsicle sticks.  Have a series of questions ready to ask that pertain to the lesson.  The students will hold up yes or no to answer the question.  Also, if you prefer you could glue true or false.  If this is to time consuming to make, white boards would work just as well.

Four Corners

Assign each corner of the room either A, B, C, D.  Ask a question with four possible answers.  Students then move to the corner they believe to the correct answer.  This is not only a great formative assessment, but works as a brain break too!

Roll the Die

Each student is given a number cube.  They roll the die.  Based on where they land they write their response on a sticky note or index card and turn in when leaving the room.  There response is based on the following:

Roll a 1:  Write a question that someone should be able to answer after this lesson.  Give the answer to the question.

Roll a 2:  Explain the lesson so a preschooler could understand.

Roll a 3:  Draw a picture to represent the main idea of the lesson.

Roll a 4:  List three things that you learned today about this topic.

Roll a 5:  What was the most interesting thing you learned to today?

Roll a 6:  Tell which part was the most confusing.  Why?


Students will quickly draw a picture of the topic learned instead of writing it out in words.

Doodling with Formative Assessment


This is a great tool to use for all you technology lovers!  It provides instant feedback and the students love it!  You will need iPads, Chromebooks, or some form of mobile devices for the students to use. The teacher poses a question and the student answers.  Kahoot will provide immediate feedback to show who is on track.  Don't worry if your not a 1:1 classroom, I am not either.  However, I do currently have 6 iPads.  I place my class into groups of 6, and they rotate the iPad around within their group.  Instead of having names listed in Kahoot, I have it listed as Groups.  It works just as well.


This is another great tool to use to for formative assessment.  What is even better, you are using technology, but not everyone needs it. Only the teacher does.  You print out ahead of time a QR code for each child.  When you are ready ask your question and the kids hold up their sign. You use your device and hold it up to scan their codes.  Just like Kahoot, Plickers will provide instant feedback too! The kids love this just as much!

So, there you have it some of my favorite forms of formative assessments.  I hope you found something you can use in your classroom that will help you assess your students learning along the way.  Remember we want to work smarter, not harder!  Formative assessments should not be more work for you, but something you can easily fit into your lesson.  I would love to hear from you if you have any other neat ideas that you are using in your classroom!   Thanks for stopping by and taking a peek!


  1. Thank you for some great ways to have fun and get important info about student learning!

    1. Thanks for stopping by. Yes, I am all about trying new ideas and making them fun. I hope you found something you can use.


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