Formative Assessment Tools for Success: Be "in-the-know" with student comprehension

By: Carol Carmichael

What Is Formative Assessment?

A child in your class has just failed the latest math test. You look over it and see that he didn't correctly answer a single question about metric measurement. How could you have known? The answer is formative assessment. Formative assessment refers to the informal methods you can use to gauge a student’s understanding during a lesson or a unit of study. The goal of assessment is to monitor student learning. Formative assessment gives you feedback to help you see where a student's strengths are and where he needs additional instruction.

Types of Formative Assessments

Most of the time, formative assessments are not graded and have no point value system. They are quick ways to gauge where a student is on the learning continuum for a particular goal or unit. Many types of these assessments exist—here are some of the most useful:

Observation – This simply involves watching a student perform a task or complete a written assignment. For example, let’s refer to the child mentioned above who struggled with the math test. During a formative assessment, you might watch him measure items to see if he can do it correctly, or you could look over a worksheet he’s completing on measuring in centimeters.

In-Class Assignment – These quick written assignments let you know who understands the concept(s) you’ve taught and who doesn’t. They’re usually short and based on one or two main ideas.

Exit/Entrance Slip – These are questions you ask at the beginning or end of a lesson in order to tell who understands the concept you taught. This way, you can tailor the next lesson to meet the needs of students who didn’t understand. The question could be something like, “How can you tell the setting of the story is in the future?” Students would then write their answers and submit them for you to read.

Higher Level Questioning – Asking questions that require students to think deeply allows you to gain insight into how much they understand, and it allows students an opportunity to see where their lapses in understanding are. It takes time to form quality high-level questions, but the results are worth it.

Small Group Work – Putting students in groups and letting them work together can help them learn from each other. Sometimes this takes the pressure off struggling students because they aren’t facing the entire class when answering questions. Listening to the groups talk among themselves enables you to assess where individual students are in their understanding.

Tools for Success

Formative assessments may be quick, but they contain a lot of information to keep and organize so that they’re useful to you. Carson-Dellosa has resources that help ease the whole assessment process.

Classroom Data Tracking Resource Books

These books are loaded with helpful math and reading assessment materials. First, for each new standard, a “crosswalk” is provided at your fingertips to help you plan (This is what students should know from the previous year and what they need to know for the next year). Then a concept chart aids in keeping track of what you’ve taught and when. Next, a set of three reproducibles with explanations of how to use them to assess your students is included. They are quick to use and focus on the concepts you want to make sure your students have grasped. All of this is followed by a section on how to put together your teacher binder or student binders – if you choose to organize in this way. Finally, a handy “at-a-glance” form is provided for you to record your students’ progress. You can customize all of the included assessments to meet the needs of your class, and they are standards based for both reading and math. This series provides tools for grades K–5 and helps to simplify the whole data tracking process.    

Language Arts Instant Assessments for Data Tracking Resource Books

This K–5 series is filled with formative and summative assessments that you can quickly and easily use with your students. Every book in the series is correlated to current state standards and has specific activities for each grade level’s standards. In addition, every resource book contains:

  • reproducible unit tests
  • exit tickets
  • traditional tests
  • prompt cards for one-on-one assessments

This series makes it easy to accurately track the progress of a student or an entire class. It saves valuable time for you, too! These assessments are great to use with Classroom Data Tracking Resource Books as more proof of a student’s growth.

Math Instant Assessments for Data Tracking Resource Books

As many students often find difficulty in the area of mathematics, there’s an instant assessment resource book for math too! It’s a K–5 series with formative and summative assessments. Each resource book has concepts specific to that grade level. Each book in this series features:

  • pretests
  • posttests
  • exit tickets
  • formatted tests
  • lists for personalized assessments
  • prompt cards for one-on-one assessments

In other words, these books include everything you need to accurately track the progress of a student or class. These resource books also fit beautifully as a complement to the Classroom Data Tracking Resource Books.

By using formative assessments, you can easily check for student understanding and smoothly guide instruction. Good formative assessments provide data that you can use to make informed decisions about lesson planning, remediation, and enrichment.