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February 19, 2016

5 Fast Formative Assessments

By John DePasquale
Grades 3–5, 6–8

    I can be very impatient. When something is important and worth having, I simply cannot wait for it.  Whatever it is, I want it right now! I feel the same way about the information from student assessments that I use to inform my classroom practices during the learning process. These formative assessments are so important because they provide me with valuable information about my students’ strengths and weaknesses that help me in the moment to make necessary shifts in my lessons to best meet the needs of my students. Formative assessments allow me to quickly take the temperature of the class and respond appropriately. As an impatient person, I want to know what my students know immediately. Here are five quick and easy formative assessments you can use right now to better understand the learning that is happening in your classroom.   

    Anticipation Guides

    Anticipation guides are a terrific way to assess students’ prior knowledge about a topic and to monitor how their understanding develops over time. I typically use anticipation guides with students before a shared reading to introduce the major themes of a text and to determine what my students know about these themes.  

    Anticipation guides include statements or questions that are rich and debatable. On a scale of 1–4 students then identify their level of agreement with these statements or questions. For example, caring about someone can be a burden is a statement I shared with students on an anticipation guide before reading Of Mice and Men. I always find it useful to return back to the anticipation guides after we read to see if students’ opinions change as a result of the ideas in the text. 

    Scholastic offers a printable with examples if you would like to learn more about anticipation guides.  Also, here’s an editable template I use when creating anticipation guides.

           

    CSI

    I’ve had those moments of uncertainty as a teacher when I look out on the class and I’m pretty sure my students’ work is a bloody mess. In these moments I need a CSI investigation to know what is actually happening. CSI is a peer assessment strategy that stands for Critique-Strength-Improvement. In groups of three, students are each assigned a CSI role and work together to review a single piece of student work. 

    • C: Shares his or her work to be CRITIQUED

    • S: Identifies and discusses two STRENGTHS of the work

    • I: Suggests one IMPROVEMENT that can be made.

    Use this peer formative assessment strategy to identify students that would benefit from additional support. 

    Journal Entry: What?/So What?/Now What?

    Journal entries are a fast way to check for understanding after a lesson. It only takes three prompts and about three minutes, but the information my students share with me is invaluable. Honest responses are important. If my students are not able to confidently respond to these prompts after a lesson, I encourage them to tell me. I use their responses to determine if lessons need to be reviewed or retaught and to inform the different groupings of students I create. 

    Daily Journal Entry Prompts:

    • WHAT? What did you learn today? List 3–4 ideas or concepts from the lesson.

    • SO WHAT?  Why are the concepts from the lesson important? State 2–3 reasons these concepts are important.

    • NOW WHAT? (Choose one) What questions about the lesson still remain for you? List 2–3 ways you can use the ideas from the lesson.

    Selling It!

    The only thing you got in this world is what you can sell. Even though this was directed at Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman, it also applies nicely to teaching. The only thing my students get out of a lesson is what they can sell. As a result, I encourage my students to create an advertisement to sell the major ideas or concepts that were explored in a lesson. Selling a lesson adds a creative twist to the written journal entries. To sell a lesson, students use visuals and short written phrases to synthesize their conceptual understanding of a lesson’s essential ideas.

    Here’s a simple template my students use to create their advertisements.

    Exit Tickets

    As I’m sure you know, exit tickets are a tried and true formative assessment. The amazing Rhonda Stewart has blogged about using exit tickets in her classroom. The concept behind exit tickets is remarkably simple. Students reflect on particular aspects of their learning at the end of a lesson and share it with the teacher as they leave class for the day. 

    As a middle school teacher with multiple classes in a day, exit tickets are an efficient way for me to check in with every student. From scraps of paper to index cards, exit tickets do not need to be fancy. I’ve also been known to accept oral responses as exit tickets. Although there are countless formats and prompts you can use for exit tickets, the most important part of the strategy to me is that it ensures a daily personal interaction with every student about their learning. The moment is brief, but I value this connection. 

    Additional Ideas

    I encourage you to check out Rhonda's post "Quick Formative Assessments" to learn more about formative assessments.  You’ll also find additional ideas in the latest issue of Scholastic Teacher magazine.

    I would love to learn about the formative assessments you use in your classroom. Add ideas to the comments below, and please don’t keep this self-identified impatient person waiting! 

    I can be very impatient. When something is important and worth having, I simply cannot wait for it.  Whatever it is, I want it right now! I feel the same way about the information from student assessments that I use to inform my classroom practices during the learning process. These formative assessments are so important because they provide me with valuable information about my students’ strengths and weaknesses that help me in the moment to make necessary shifts in my lessons to best meet the needs of my students. Formative assessments allow me to quickly take the temperature of the class and respond appropriately. As an impatient person, I want to know what my students know immediately. Here are five quick and easy formative assessments you can use right now to better understand the learning that is happening in your classroom.   

    Anticipation Guides

    Anticipation guides are a terrific way to assess students’ prior knowledge about a topic and to monitor how their understanding develops over time. I typically use anticipation guides with students before a shared reading to introduce the major themes of a text and to determine what my students know about these themes.  

    Anticipation guides include statements or questions that are rich and debatable. On a scale of 1–4 students then identify their level of agreement with these statements or questions. For example, caring about someone can be a burden is a statement I shared with students on an anticipation guide before reading Of Mice and Men. I always find it useful to return back to the anticipation guides after we read to see if students’ opinions change as a result of the ideas in the text. 

    Scholastic offers a printable with examples if you would like to learn more about anticipation guides.  Also, here’s an editable template I use when creating anticipation guides.

           

    CSI

    I’ve had those moments of uncertainty as a teacher when I look out on the class and I’m pretty sure my students’ work is a bloody mess. In these moments I need a CSI investigation to know what is actually happening. CSI is a peer assessment strategy that stands for Critique-Strength-Improvement. In groups of three, students are each assigned a CSI role and work together to review a single piece of student work. 

    • C: Shares his or her work to be CRITIQUED

    • S: Identifies and discusses two STRENGTHS of the work

    • I: Suggests one IMPROVEMENT that can be made.

    Use this peer formative assessment strategy to identify students that would benefit from additional support. 

    Journal Entry: What?/So What?/Now What?

    Journal entries are a fast way to check for understanding after a lesson. It only takes three prompts and about three minutes, but the information my students share with me is invaluable. Honest responses are important. If my students are not able to confidently respond to these prompts after a lesson, I encourage them to tell me. I use their responses to determine if lessons need to be reviewed or retaught and to inform the different groupings of students I create. 

    Daily Journal Entry Prompts:

    • WHAT? What did you learn today? List 3–4 ideas or concepts from the lesson.

    • SO WHAT?  Why are the concepts from the lesson important? State 2–3 reasons these concepts are important.

    • NOW WHAT? (Choose one) What questions about the lesson still remain for you? List 2–3 ways you can use the ideas from the lesson.

    Selling It!

    The only thing you got in this world is what you can sell. Even though this was directed at Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman, it also applies nicely to teaching. The only thing my students get out of a lesson is what they can sell. As a result, I encourage my students to create an advertisement to sell the major ideas or concepts that were explored in a lesson. Selling a lesson adds a creative twist to the written journal entries. To sell a lesson, students use visuals and short written phrases to synthesize their conceptual understanding of a lesson’s essential ideas.

    Here’s a simple template my students use to create their advertisements.

    Exit Tickets

    As I’m sure you know, exit tickets are a tried and true formative assessment. The amazing Rhonda Stewart has blogged about using exit tickets in her classroom. The concept behind exit tickets is remarkably simple. Students reflect on particular aspects of their learning at the end of a lesson and share it with the teacher as they leave class for the day. 

    As a middle school teacher with multiple classes in a day, exit tickets are an efficient way for me to check in with every student. From scraps of paper to index cards, exit tickets do not need to be fancy. I’ve also been known to accept oral responses as exit tickets. Although there are countless formats and prompts you can use for exit tickets, the most important part of the strategy to me is that it ensures a daily personal interaction with every student about their learning. The moment is brief, but I value this connection. 

    Additional Ideas

    I encourage you to check out Rhonda's post "Quick Formative Assessments" to learn more about formative assessments.  You’ll also find additional ideas in the latest issue of Scholastic Teacher magazine.

    I would love to learn about the formative assessments you use in your classroom. Add ideas to the comments below, and please don’t keep this self-identified impatient person waiting! 

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