7 Formative Assessment Strategy Examples (That Aren’t Your “Same Old, Same Old”)

Girl Writing

Let’s be real — repeatedly using the same old Formative Assessments or Assessment Prompts could be boring. How many times have you written “exit ticket” on your lesson plan this year? If you are tired of the same strategies, your students probably are too. The repeated “exit ticket” is frequently overused and bland. Worse, it focuses only on summarizing at the end of a period or lesson. The real power of having students summarize comes when it is distributed throughout the lesson.  

However, the varied need to summarize so frequently, particularly if you are on a block schedule, can quickly exhaust your ideas. Keeping it fresh with these 7 formative assessment strategy examples can help keep students motivated. Often, it just takes putting a new spin on an old idea.

Check out these two variations on the Pairs Checking Strategy:

Variation 1: Math Example

Steps in the Process

  1. Students pair up to work on a set of problems.
  2. One student will work on the problem, following the steps that are displayed on the anchor chart or a graphic organizer,  while the other student watches.
  3. If the student works the problem correctly, the observer lavishes on praise (i.e., You are the Queen of Quadratics! The Prince of Problem Solving!)
  4. If the problem is solved incorrectly, the watcher offers some constructive feedback (i.e., You might want to consider…). Once the student makes the correction, students write collaboratively to explain how they solved the problem or corrected the error.
  5. For the next problem, students switch roles and repeat steps 2-4. They will continue this process until all of the problems have been worked out.
  6. The first pair to finish waits until another pair finishes, and then they create a group of four using Pairs Square. The four mathematicians then compare answers.
  7. If they agree, they give the team an “agree” sign used in your class. 

Variation 2: Informational Text Example

Steps in the Process

  1. The teacher creates two columns of questions.
Column AColumn B
In general, what is the position of supporters of the Vietnam War?   In general, what was the position of war protestors?
What events led to the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution?How did the Resolution impact Johnson’s decisions?
  1. Introduce the piece of informational text and the set of questions to students.
  2. Pairs will read together and work with their partner to answer the questions. The reading may either be done aloud or silently.
  3. Partner 1 will answer a question in Column A, then Partner 2 will answer a question in Column B.
  4. Pairs will continue until all of the questions have been answered.
  5. Students should summarize the text using the answers to the questions either below the chart or on the back of the paper. 

For this variation, teachers have an opportunity to incorporate questions that challenge student thinking. As with all new strategies, it is critical that the process is demonstrated for students, and that students have an opportunity to practice.

5 Quick Ideas for Collaborative Pairs

Looking to mix up your Collaborative Pairs structures? Check out these five ideas.

  1. Focus Pairs – This activity is designed to link to prior knowledge. Before beginning a film clip, lecture, or text, pairs summarize what they already know about the subject, and then generate 3-5 questions they have about the topic. Having students answer the questions throughout the lesson, can also be used for formative assessments.
  2. Book Report Partners – Students create a set of interview questions to ask their partner about the book they have read. This gives teachers a great opportunity to have students focus on literary elements. Using the questions, Partner 1 interviews Partner 2 about the book they read, and Partner 1 summarizes for the class. Partners then reverse roles.
  3. Computer Pairs – Many times, students are asked to work in pairs when working on the computer. In this activity, each partner has a responsibility. Partner 1 may be the “Keyboarder,” while Partner 2 is the “Monitor/Reader.” Pairs must first agree to the information that should be entered and verify the information. Each time computer work is required, students alternate roles.
  4. Peer Review – Partners peer review each other’s written/open-ended responses. If needed, teachers can provide focus questions for students to use as they evaluate the responses. Remember that a rubric provided ahead of time will give students the necessary guidelines for constructing quality responses.

Steps in the Process:

  • a.     Partners exchange written responses.
  • b.     Using the rubric, each partner reads the other’s response and puts a star beside or highlights parts they like. They then put a question mark beside ideas that are either unclear or need work.
  • c.      Next, students identify any problems with writing conventions, and then discuss them with the writer.
  • d.     After returning the rough draft to the author, each partner makes corrections in the responses based on the feedback given.
  • e.     Partners then switch final drafts and do a final proof using the rubric.
  1. Paired Questioning – When students use this strategy, they are forced to not only answer a question but provide evidence that supports their answer.

Steps in the process:

  • a.     Students sit with a partner.
  • b.     Both students read just the title of the text.
  • c.       With books closed, each student in the pair takes a turn asking any question related to the title (i.e., Based on the title, what do you think the article is about? Who do you think might be interested in this topic?). Each partner must try to answer the other’s questions.
  • d.     Each student then reads the first segment of the text silently.
  • e.     After reading, Partner 1 asks a question for Partner 2 to answer. Partner 2 cites evidence in the text to support the answer.
  • f.       Students then switch roles, and repeat Step E.
  • g.     Partner 1 then tells Partner 2 what they believe to be the most important ideas in the selection, explaining why they are important. Next, they highlight what they believe to be unimportant ideas and explain their thinking.
  • h.     Partner 2 must either agree or disagree and support their thinking.
  • i.       Individually, students do a written summary of the selection.
  • j.       Students share their summaries with their partner.
  • k.      Students switch roles and repeat Steps D-J until the text is complete.

Some of these activities are adapted from ideas offered by Dr. Lynn Canady, a Professor at the University of Virginia. Dr. Canady has an extensive background in teaching in the block. His body of work supports the exemplary practices and strategies that are at the heart of the Learning-Focused Instructional Framework.

Looking for more ways to keep students engaged? Check out the Collaborative Pairs Course.

Don Marlett

Don has been an educator for 20 years. Before joining Learning-Focused he taught High School and Middle School Science and worked as a school administrator. Don has participated in school evaluations focused on the implementation of High Yield Strategies. He has presented at numerous conferences, including the Florida Association of School Administrators Conference, the Tennessee Principals Association Conference, and the Kentucky Association of School Administrators. Don leads product development, provides leadership training and coaching, and coaches educators in the implementation of the Learning-Focused Instructional Framework.

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