5 Formative Assessment Strategies That Fuel Student Learning


It’s no secret that educators are more likely to use formative and interim assessments (rather than summative assessments) to inform daily instruction. What is surprising, though, is how much the K-12 assessment philosophy has shifted in the past two years. 

Our first K-12 assessment study underscored this transformation, as our findings have shown that 60% of educators believe that assessment should measure growth rather than reflect achievement. When you pair that with the fact that 77% of educators also say they are using assessment primarily to better understand students’ individual learning needs, it’s no surprise that formative assessment is on the rise.

In our guide to impactful formative assessment, we emphasize the idea that while each type of assessment may be used to assess the same content or learning standards, the purpose that triggers the assessment is what sets them apart.

Formative assessments answer the question, “What’s next in my students’ learning?”

We’ve rounded up five of our favorite classroom formative assessment strategies to help you guide your students with immediate feedback and most importantly—a little fun!

#1 Think-Pair-Share

A fan-favorite for determining comprehension and encouraging student collaboration.

  • Ask a question of the class
  • Have each student write down their answer
  • Ask students to pair up with a classmate and discuss their answers
  • After pairs have had a chance to discuss their answers amongst themselves, have them share with a larger group or the rest of the class

Not only does this strategy help students to think individually about a topic or question, it also promotes idea-sharing among classmates.

#2 Popsicle Sticks

Need an engagement boost? This strategy sets the expectation that all students’ ideas should be heard and serves as a quick-check for understanding.

  •  Have each student write their name on a Popsicle stick
  • Place all the sticks in a cup
  • Ask a question of the class, draw a stick from the cup, and have the student whose name is on the stick respond to the question

This activity can be structured in several different ways, but a few ideas are: check for comprehension after a reading assignment or structure the questions like a pop quiz before an interim assessment to check for understanding.

#3 Corners

All you need are four walls for this interactive method that will help you identify student levels of comfort or understanding of a specific topic.

  • Provide students with a prompt or topic 
  • Label each corner in your classroom to represents a different answer or view on the proposed question or subject
  • Ask that students go to the corner that best represents their answer. Based on classroom discussion, students can then move from corner to corner, adjusting their answer or opinion.
  • Note that each corner doesn't have to represent a specific answer. They can also represent students’ comfort with or understanding of a topic. This can be a great way to form intervention groups to further support student needs.

#4 Two Stars & A Wish

Because nothing activates student-centered learning quite like self-reflection.

  • Students are asked to assess and review a piece of their own work
  • Each student is asked to give their work two stars—areas where the student’s work excelled
  • Each student is then asked to give their work one wish—an area where there can be some level of improvement. 
  • But wait, there’s more! You can get the whole class involved by asking the class to review an anonymous piece of work as a group or break the class into pairs and have them review each other's work and provide feedback.

#5 Exit Tickets

Think of it like a teeny-tiny summative assessment, because instead of asking the big question of, “What did my students learn this year?” you’re simply asking, “What did my students learn today?” And the best part is, you can use those findings to drive instruction tomorrow.

  • Pose a question about the day’s instruction to all students prior to class ending
  • Students write their answer on a card or piece of paper and hand it in as they exit.
  • Teachers can review responses for evidence of student learning

The exit ticket is a helpful tool that can inform instruction planning. It helps educators quickly gain understanding of who knows what and if certain subjects need additional instruction time.

Download the Report

To learn more about key assessment trends that are top of mind for educators nationwide, as well as perspectives and considerations for the future, check out The State of Assessment in K-12. 

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