Formative Assessment Ideas for Social Studies

Instructor: Elisha Madison

Elisha is a writer, editor, and aspiring novelist. She has a Master's degree in Ancient Celtic History & Mythology and another Masters in Museum Studies.

Formative assessment is used to determine how students are doing during a specific subject, to assure that you can move forward with little to no confusion. This lesson provides some unique ways to perform formative assessments.

Formative Assessment

There are two different types of assessment, formative and summative. Summative assessments are assessments that are meant to determine the comprehension of students after a subject has been finished. Formative assessment is meant to assess a student's comprehension while still learning a subject. Formative assessments can be graded or not graded, which is dependent on personal choice. The main goal is not a grade; however, it is to see if the students understand the subject and whether they need to go over pieces or all of it again.

In-Classroom Formative Assessments

Formative assessments do not need to be long and drawn out - if you are just trying to assess whether the students comprehend the subject, then a short review is fine and can be done in the classroom. These examples are ways to do short reviews for students while learning a subject such as social studies.

  • Journaling - Having students carry a journal for occasional use in class is always helpful. Students can take the last five minutes of class during a topic to summarize what they have learned. Then, the students can turn this in for review, so you can assess whether the topic is being understood or not.
  • Blind questions - Have a can or bowl at the front of the classroom where students can put questions from a note card as they walk out of the classroom. These can be reviewed to see if there is a gap in knowledge, a standard issue, or perhaps just a few students who are struggling. This allows you to review subjects again, and no student is singled out.
  • Bubble maps - For a quick assessment, have the students put the main idea of the topic such as 'Nazi Germany' and circle it in the middle of the page. Then have them put the main ideas in their own circles around the central circle. The main ideas should be placed closer to the circle the more important they are to the topic, and further away if they are less important. This is a good way to visualize for the students, and easy to review.
  • Breakout Sessions - Have students break out into groups of 4 or 5, and have them discuss a subject amongst themselves, while you wander the room getting an idea of what questions they may have. Then at the end of a breakout session, have one speaker from each group advise what questions the whole group may have about the topic. This makes sure the students don't feel like it is all on them, and they may also learn info from their peers.
  • Facts and Lies - Have students work on a sheet that has facts and lies about the topic being learned. Then as they share it with the class, the class has to determine the lie, which is fun, and telling on the comprehension of a topic.

Formal Formative Assessments

Occasionally during a topic, a more formal formative assessment is needed to get an idea of the student's comprehension on a more complex topic. The following assessments can be done in the classroom, but they can also be done as homework.

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