If learning is a journey, then formative assessments are the trail markers that keep you on the right path.

      Teachers use formative assessments to gauge student understanding throughout the learning process. Unlike their summative counterparts (like midterm exams and final projects), the input from formative assessments empowers teachers to modify instruction early in the learning process so students can have a personalized learning experience that meets their individual needs.

       Formative assessments also have the potential to let students take ownership of their learning by helping them identify their strengths and weaknesses. The act of self-assessment allows a student to evaluate whether or not her effort is sufficient and make adjustments accordingly.

      The most common example of effective formative assessment is the simple act of asking questions and using responses to measure whether or not students are grasping the content. If the responses reflect a strong understanding, then you can take the material to a more challenging level. If the responses reflect a lack of understanding, you can backtrack and review. 

    While questioning is a useful strategy, it often falls short of reaching the unique needs of a diverse group of learners, which is why teachers can benefit from differentiating the way they formatively assess their students.

      Here are 5 creative strategies for formatively assessing a diverse group of young learners in a way that is inclusive, engaging, and empowering:

1.) The Exit Tweet

       If you are a Twitter user, then you know how challenging it can be to summarize your thoughts into a response that is 140 characters or less. These restrictions force you to express the main ideas in a clear and concise matter. By extending such restrictions to your students’ exit ticket responses, they are forced to engage in critical thinking as they try to summarize the content in a short narrative.

2.) Text Polling

        Teachers in "Bring Your Own Device" (BYOD) schools have the opportunity to use text polling to gain instant feedback from students. Apps like Survey Monkey andPoll Everywhere allow students to text in their responses to questions and see an interactive data chart that represents the responses from the entire class. This kind of input is imperative to designing effective data-driven instruction.

3.) Tables, Charts, Maps, and Diagrams


       Students with a visual learning preference often struggle to express their understanding verbally or through traditional written responses. Teachers can formatively assess these students by providing opportunities for them to express themselves by creating visual representations like Venn diagrams, mind maps, and infographics. By differentiating this way, students have the freedom to express their understanding without boundaries, and their responses are usually surprisingly creative!  

4.) Speak In Emojis

       Communicating with emojis has become a language in itself in recent years. This approach to formative assessment allows students to use emoji's to describe their level of understanding, confidence, and effort. You can download a free emoji formative assessment worksheet here.

5.) Take On Misconceptions

         For this formative assessment activity, the teacher shares a common misconception about the topic and asks students to explain why they think it exists. This activity is excellent for critical and creative thinking and often leads to an engaging class discussion. You may choose to allow students to express their thoughts in a variety of ways, including verbally and graphically.


by Anthony Persico

Anthony is the content crafter and head educator for MashUp Math. You can often find me happily developing animated math lessons to share on my YouTube channel. Or spending way too much time at the gym or playing on my phone.