Formative assessments are a part of the instruction process where students are given the opportunity to demonstrate their learning. The assessments are 'formative' because the results don't determine a grade, but they do determine the direction instruction will take. Teachers may change the lesson content or any number of things after a formative assessment to help students successfully complete the unit. Summative assessments, on the other hand, are the type that show how much a student has learned by taking an exam or quiz for a grade.
Types and Examples of Formative Assessments
Formative assessments are a discovery process that may involve direct questioning or reflection on the part of the student. Below are some of the ways you might choose to do a formative assessment:
Muddiest Point Questions
Ask the whole class if they have a 'muddiest point'--the one thing that seems to keep them from understanding and learning--and write their responses down on a whiteboard or chalkboard. One by one, walk through their 'muddiest', explaining and checking for understanding as you go along. Or, ask them to jot them down. Collect them and write them down on the board for class participation and explanation.
Prepared and Emerging Questions
During the lesson, ask questions that invite critical thinking. Prepare questions ahead of time and also expand on questions that emerge during the lesson. This will help you discover what students have learned and also invite deeper engagement.
Provide a drop-box where students can anonymously submit questions they have about the lesson. This is especially helpful to students who struggle with speaking up during class or admitting they don't understand something.
Reflection: During and After the Lesson
Gather evidence as you walk around the classroom. How many of the students are on-task and engaged with the material? Note what you see and hear, and if necessary, adjust lessons accordingly.
After teaching a lesson and answering questions, ask students to write a one-minute essay where the task is to summarize the main idea in the lesson.
Hand out index cards asking students to write down one main idea they clearly understand on one side. On the other side, they write down something they still don't clearly understand.
Ask students to record in a journal the process they've used during the lesson, the discoveries they've made, reflections on what they've learned, or what they don't understand about the lesson. Collect their responses and review them.
After this lesson ends, you'll be ready to:
- Define formative and summative assessments
- Identify the types of formative questions
- Outline strategies for formative reflection
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Prompts About Formative Assessments:
Graphic Organizer Prompt 1:
Create a poster, chart, or some other type of graphic organizer that compares and contrasts formative assessments and summative assessments.
Example: You could have a graphic organizer with two columns: one for formative assessments and one for summative assessments.
Graphic Organizer Prompt 2:
Make a poster, chart, or some other type of graphic organizer that presents the steps of the formative assessment type of reflection process during and after a lesson.
Example: You could provide an illustration of an index card and explain that you can use it to gauge student comprehension by seeing one thing about the lesson they understand and one thing that they still have questions about or difficulty understanding.
Write an essay of one to two pages that describes the importance of questioning in formative assessments, as well as the techniques teachers can use to elicit questions from students.
Example: While teaching the lesson, ask questions that get students to use critical thinking skills.
Lesson Plan Prompt:
Devise a lesson plan that utilizes formative assessments. Choose a specific topic that you will be teaching, and then provide examples of how you plan to incorporate formative assessments in the learning process.
Example: You are teaching about the Civil War, and you have quite a few students who struggle with speaking in class, so you provide a question box for students to anonymously submit any questions they have about the Civil War.
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