Formative Assessment Types

Types of Formative Assessments and Which Approach is Right for Your Students

Formative assessments are the lifeblood of good teaching. These regular, often informal, checks for understanding help teachers better understand where and how to adjust their instruction of content or skills. Formative assessments also help students better understand how well they grasp new material and what still needs clarification.

Teachers often use several different types of formative assessments depending on what they are teaching and the make up of their class. Formative assessments might be done once a day, every few days, or as needed when covering particularly challenging material. These assessments can be invaluable for teachers and students to recognize which teaching strategies work and which ones should be reevaluated.

In order to make the most of formative assessments, they should be quick and direct. The goal is to provide opportunities for all students to showcase what they know, what they are starting to grasp, and what needs more explanation. Here are six types of formative assessments that can be used in almost any classroom.

Entry/Exit Slips

Entry and exit slips are one of the most popular types of formative assessments and with good reason. They are quick and efficient at letting the teacher know what students understand and what information is being retained.

These assessments are given at the beginning or end of a lesson and shouldn’t require a ton of writing. The point is not to check grammar or writing syntax, but simply to check content knowledge. The possibilities for prompts are endless, but some common ones include: how would you define (concept), give an example of (content you discussed), what are the two most important/notable concepts you learned, what is one question you still have about (concept).

Concept Maps

Concept maps are another excellent way to get a good overview of students’ grasp of content. Concept maps should look a little different from student to student but help the teacher to see how students are conceptualizing the information presented. It can be helpful to list ideas or vocabulary you want students to include in their map, but how they draw the connections between each should be left open-ended. Students who prefer linear thinking might have neat flow-charts, while others might have more scattered but connected bubbles. Because you are just looking for a glimpse into what they know, there is no “wrong” way to do them.

Fun, Low Stakes Quizzes

Assessment apps and software programs can make giving quick low stakes quizzes easy. Ideal options allow for fast scoring, flexible feedback, and shareability with other educators. Remember, it’s the information these quizzes provide that is most important, not the “grades,” because the goal is to gather data that can guide instruction.

Create a Meme

Speak the language kids are already speaking with a create-a-meme assessment. Kids simply need to find a relevant picture and then write a caption on the picture that relates to what they learned. This is a great formative assessment for your more creative kids. An example might be a picture of a kid with a happy/maniacal look with a caption, “Alexander the Great after conquering 10 cities and naming them all after himself.” Teachers can choose one part of a lesson or concept to turn into a meme or let the students choose. For example, create a meme that explains the climax of the story.

Agree/Disagree Cards

Create laminated cards with “I agree” on one side and “I disagree” on the other. Have students keep them at their desks. Use them at the end of a lesson (or during) to periodically check for understanding. These can be used in relation to any subject matter as long as your questions are phrased correctly. Instead of asking “What is 4 x 4?” say “4 x 4 is 16.” Students then have to hold up the right card.

Red/Yellow/Green or 1, 2, 3

Similar to the agree/disagree cards, this type of formative assessment prompts students to offer up a quick signal about what they know. Simply create red, green and yellow laminated cards and use them to check for understanding whenever it feels appropriate. Green means, “I understand everything and could explain it back to you.” Yellow means, “I think I am understanding, but I couldn’t explain it to someone else yet.” Red means, “I need to hear it again or have the material explained differently.” If cards are too much, establish a routine where kids hold up 1 (green), 2 (yellow), or 3 (red) fingers.

This kind of assessment also provides the opportunity to clear up common misconceptions. Sometimes there may be a sea of green cards, but when asked to explain, students still struggle with certain elements.

There are lots of types of formative assessments to choose from. Having a few in your teacher toolbox is a great way to establish routines and show students you are constantly and consistently monitoring what they’ve learned and adjusting as necessary. This helps to build trust and understanding for a more successful classroom.