Five Fast & Fantastic Formative Assessment Tools

First things first--Formative assessment is done AS students are learning. Summative assessment is at the END (like a presentation or reflection). Good teaching adjusts constantly based upon what students know at any given point. Good formative assessment removes the unnecessary practice of raising hands in class and gives teachers feedback that impacts how they're teaching at that moment. Banning children from raising their hands in class improves their academic performance, research suggests.

In a remarkable experiment, a class of 13-year-olds learned twice as quickly when they were not allowed to put their hands up in response to a teacher’s question.

Instead, the entire class was forced to write answers on small whiteboards and raise their answers in the air together.

We want to know how each individual student is performing and retaining a certain concept. Instant feedback. We can do this now. Here's how.

Formative Assessment Toolkit

Learn the strengths and weaknesses of each tool. You will most likely need more than one to meet every classroom situation. These are my fab five tools for formative assessment.

Socrative can be used for quick quizzes and also on the fly. Here's another feature. Before class, I create quizzes that we can play as a game called Space Race. The website automatically divides the class into teams. Kids know what color team they're on and can look at the rockets racing one another on the board. I rarely record the grade because it's formative assessment, but especially when I know I have more teaching to do.

The advantage of Socrative is that it gives me percentages that I can use as a grade if we're ready for that. You can even use it for traditional quizzes if desired. All of the assessment data also comes in beautiful reports that can be emailed, downloaded, or exported.

Formative assessment + Socrative - boredom + collaboration x motivation= learning. #inthepit #IsaacFoxLearns

Kahoot lets us (you and/or your students!) build fun quizzes. Students use computers, iPads, or any other web-enabled device to join in the game. You can create flashcards for review. You can also embed videos and use Kahoot as part of the teaching process, or students can create review games to share. One disadvantage is that students can use aliases as their 'name' as they join the activity. While I can see overall how the class is doing, unlike Socrative, I can’t see the patterns of which unfamiliar nickname is struggling. SO-I always instruct my students to use their first name.

I’ve experimented with in-flipping certain aspects in class and using videos. An In-Class Flip works like this. Just like with a traditional flip, the teacher pre-records direct instruction, say, in a video lecture. But instead of having students view the content at home, that video becomes a station in class that small groups rotate through. The rest of their time is spent on other activities -- independent work and group work, with some activities related to the lesson and others focusing on different course content. As with a traditional flip, the direct instruction runs on its own, which frees the teacher for more one-on-one or small group time with students. But just as we know that it's better to ask questions throughout the text rather than only at the end of the chapter, you should also ask questions after a topic is covered in the video and not wait until the end. Zaption lets you embed questions within the video. Students can't move forward in the video until they can correctly answer the question. Whether you’re flipping your classroom or in-flipping, this is a powerful tool.

You'll need to upgrade your Zaption plan to embed it in your learning management system, but you can test it out on their site for free to see if it works for you. I use Zaption within our LMS, Edmodo. I shared "tours" on Zaption via Edmodo for easy student access. There is also a recently released iPad app worth checking out, too.

Backchannel chat -- a live chat that accompanies class discussion -- is a great way to do exit ticket activities. While these chat tools aren't anonymous, Chatzy, Today’s Meet, or Ning can be powerful. Students can take notes as you teach together, and you can check for understanding by having them type answers to questions. Another riff on this would be group note taking in Google Docs. (If you need to have anonymous chat, you could set something up in Google Forms.)

One tip: If I ask a question and want everyone to answer, my rule is that you cannot repeat a previous answer -- each response must be slightly different and add something to the conversation or what we know. Afterward, you can export the chat and share it with the class as notes for the day.

I have recently been using this quite a bit during our class read-aloud. Each day six students are the "backchannelers" and are responsible for "thinking out loud" during the read aloud. Spotting figurative language, asking questions, making connections, and commenting on plot structure are just a few of the focus activities we will select.

No BYOD? But what if you have no computers, no cell phones, no nothing? Do you have a smartphone or tablet? If so, you've got two simple answers.

For verbal questions: Log into Plickers and create a page for each student. This tool will code in the student's name and answers. Hand each student their plicker card and ask a question. The student will hold the card up in the direction of their answer. Looking at the class through the camera on your smartphone inside the Plicker app, you’ll see the name of each student and whether he or she got the answer right to the question you just asked! Boom!

For quick quizzes: QuickKey is one mobile scanning app for the iPhone. There are several others, such as ZipGrade and GradeCam. The disadvantage of this method is that your questions must be multiple choice. You print out the short form and students bubble it in. Use your smartphone to immediately know what students know with a snap of a picture.

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