Fantastic and far-out formative assesment ideas

When Suzie Boss skyped in to chat with us for #plsm13 last month, I just knew that she would share with us some stunning but practical ideas for project-learning. If you’ve read Lee’s overview of the event, you’ll know that she didn’t disappoint. Two things that really stuck with me from her time with us, was the idea of ‘sticky learning’ (this is the learning that stays with students, that they can easily bring to mind, the real stuff, the deep learning) and also the challenge to be as creative with formative assessment strategies as we can.

As you can tell from the title of this blog post, it’s the latter idea that I want to focus on. Formative assessment is such a wanky expression, cos really all it means is learning. That’s all. It just means checking in to see what students are learning, what they’re struggling with and how we can address any gaps or misconceptions we can identify. It is the ‘identifying’ that is the crux of formative assessment. Really, it is true assessment for learning. But as Suzie identified, there are a range of ways that we can ‘check-in’ with our students … there are the usual ways of getting students to do a quiz, answer a question or two in a discussion or write a brief reflection on learning in a learning journal. These are great but can become monotonous for students and for teachers. Variety forces people to think in new ways and fall out of over-used patterns of thought. Suzie told us about a cool idea from one of the workshops she’s run: a teacher said she created a ‘project confession booth’ where students could access a camera and ‘confess’ issues they are having with the project/team-mates. I think this is such a cool idea. Suzie challenged us to come up with as many formative assessment ideas as we can think of … but we didn’t get to the activity at #plsm13.

I was hoping you might be able to help me complete the challenge. I’m writing a project that my colleagues will be teaching as well and I am hoping to incorporate a variety of formative assessment tools for them to use with their students. Below are a few formative assessment tools that I have used before:

– edmodo quiz

– learning journals (goals/medals/missions protocol)

– 30 second wrap-up (randomly select a student to give a summary of group’s goals and achievements for that lesson)

– starbursting: students draw a star and write who/what/when/where/why and list all they know about the project focus (topic or product) under those headings

– KWL table

I am literally so brain dead at the moment that I can’t think of anything else that I use. Maybe I don’t use anything else … how bad is that? Please share your methods of ‘checking in’ on your students’ progress/learning by adding a comment below and I will add them to this list. Cheers!


36 thoughts on “Fantastic and far-out formative assesment ideas

  1. I like hands on assessment. I do an English business unit where students write a business proposal, get peer feedback, sell their products, and evaluate the results.

    My other favourite formative assessment is for speaking/ listening. Students listen to, read and watch instructional texts then work as a team to complete the tasks- eg; build a survival shelter, light a fire using flint. Students each take a turn being group leader and group member, then a 360 review of their communication skills is used for their final mark.

    • Sounds really interesting, Mishia. What are some of the formative assessment strategies you use in class each lesson to check that students are on task, learning and also to find the gaps in learning for those magical ‘just in time’ teaching moments?

  2. I have a couple of things I like to do in my classes:
    1. Exit tickets – students write down something they are still puzzled about/ still have questions about/ don’t fully understand yet. I use this at various times throughout a unit to see how we are travelling.
    2. Think, puzzle, explore. (What I think I know about the topic/problem/concept, what puzzles me about this topic/problem/concept, what I’d like to find out more about this topic/problem/concept) I use this rather than KWL as I get a lot of information from students at the start – what they understand so far, what they are interested in, mis-conceptions, areas of interest, follow ups etc.
    3. Mini whiteboards. Great for short answers, opinions, guesses – kids hold up their answer and I can see what the have and work out if we can move on or need to stay where we are.

  3. Asking students to predict what the next lesson will be and why they think this.
    i often use this when teaching new or building on existing skills, especially grammar, punctuation and writing. Student’s responses indicate whether they have understood the lesson and how they may implement their new skill in their work.

    It allows for immediate reflection of the lesson making sure that everyone is working toward the defined objective. The questioning also has the potential for students to direct their learning path. Though this particular strategy does not always work with lower ability classes. In saying that I am going to use this with 9-6 as we move through the steps to writing and presenting a persuasive speech.

  4. I have been thinking about this same topic as far as mixing it up. We usually have students write a short essay for each standard but they get tedious for students to write and for me to grade. Our current project is about the Industrial Revelution. Some ideas that I am thinking of are having students record a short screencast (3minutes) where they show some primary source pictures and explain them to meet the standard. For the standard on urbanization I am going to have them visually explain it with a drawing much like an RSA Animate video. To make it easy I will just have them draw it and either write out an explanation next to the drawings or explain their drawings to me verbally.

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  6. With teens and adults, I use informal writing prompts one or several times during a class, depending on the difficulty of the material to be mastered: the harder the content, the more times for writing. I usually design prompts to be answered in no more than a specified number of sentences (usually 3-5) and in a minute or two. Although I collect the work at the end of class, the real formative assessment is when the students themselves see what they do or do not understand. If they missed something, they can fill in the gaps right there in class.

    The informal writing has the additional benefit of giving timed writing practice, I also make the writing prompts give editing practice, by telling students to edit their work for one specific error, such as sentence fragments.

    • Thanks for these ideas, Linda. I quite like timed writing activities as well – it challenges the more capable students to write their best and gives the less confident students a chance! 😀

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  8. I’m a big fan of peer assessment, especially for things like video / audio which take longer to watch that it takes me to read an essay. The key thing is to be really clear about what the success criteria are (maybe agree them with the students at the start of the project), have them on display throughout (maybe for some self-assessment mid way through) and then the quality of the peer feedback is usually improved.

    For a quick mid-point bit of assessment feedback I’ll get the students to show me using their fingers how confident they are in a topic (5= give me the test NOW, and 1 = I don’t even understand the question)

    • I love the use of the fingers being used to show confidence! I am a massive fan of peer-feedback using class-created scaffolds, as you probably know 😉 Thanks for sharing!!!

  9. 1. Closing circle – each student shares one thing they now know about a topic.
    2. Exit slips – already discussed.
    3. Yes/no – can’t nod or shake head or say any synonym of yes/no. I wrote a little about this on my just beginning blog.

    • Hey Tim, thanks for these three ideas! I like the idea of a closing circle – especially if you give the kids a chance to ‘go first’ which means it’s easier … less intense for the less confident student. Cheers!

  10. I get them to take their question of ‘What I want to know’ from the start of the unit, from our pin board, and get them to read it out and see if they can answer their own question and discuss as a class. This way I can see what they have learnt and so can they- visible learning. If there are questions left unanswered students research it and we come back and discuss it… me a chance to see holes in my teaching too.

    • Thanks! I actually do this quite a bit and it is super effective … visible learning at it’s best!! I have to remember to post this term’s project questions up on the wall … 🙂

  11. Reflecting on the Solo Taxonomy created or distributed at the begining of the story.
    A short podcast. Basically use their phones to record their thoughts, then upload the mp3 files in Edmodo. Share with the class next lesson.

    • Yes – the solo taxonomy works as a great formative assessment tool and effective as self-assessment as well. I love the idea of the short podcast – like an audio version of the video confession booth. Thanks for sharing your ideas, Ben! 😀

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  18. In regards to ongoing formative assessment and ‘Exit Tickets/Exit Slips’, I use Socrative. It asks students three simple questions and then sends it to your email when you are done. Although you were trying to break the monotony, the students often ask me if they need to complete it and kind of get annoyed when they don’t have to.

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