Formative Assessments

After my Edutopia article published on teaching a year without giving any tests, I received a lot of questions on how I find out what my students actually know. Of course there are always the online games - Blooket, Gimkit, Quizlet Live, Quizizz, and Kahoot, but I prefer to mix it up as much as possible.

I put together this list of my favorite formative assessments that I use regularly in my classroom. Some of these have been around a long time and some are relatively newer, each one can be edited and adjusted to meet the needs of your own classroom.

1 - Challenge Grid

This retrieval practice starts off with a team of 4-5 kids and NO technology. They receive the blank grid that has been laminated and an expo marker.  Each group is given the question grid face down. Once I say “GO”, they flip the questions over and begin to work as a team to answer as many grid boxes as they can in the time allotted, usually 8-10 minutes.  Once time is up, they grade themselves as we go over it and add up the points. The way the grid works, older questions are worth more points.  For example, on this example grid below, the green boxes indicate work from the current week or unit, the blue is 2-3 weeks ago, yellow is at least a month or two ago, and the red indicates last semester. Older material awards more points and the team with the most point wins. The file is linked below if you want to edit and give it a try!

Screenshot of sample challenge grid
Screenshot of blank challenge grid for students to record answers on.

2 - Hexagons

I learned about Hexagons last summer from my friend Leah Lacrosse.  I love how much it requires students to think. Basically I take the vocabulary or structural terms from the unit and put each word on a different hexagonal shape.  Some shapes have images or icons on them and I always give them 3-4 blank ones that they can use to add to the grid. The directions are to assemble the hexagon into one image, like a puzzle, however if the sides are touching, they must be connected in some way that you can explain. The first time I did this, I printed them out, cut them, laminated them, and organized them into envelopes.  This worked great but the prep time was a lot. The second time, I created this in Keynote and the kids could just drag them around on the screen. I like using both methods. Example Keynote file attached below for editing and trying!


Students working on a hexagon activity at a lab table.
Digital version example of hexagon assignment

3 - Quick Pick and Classroom

Quick Pick is a Keynote file that I have each student download early in the year.  This file (seen below) is just a series of slides with letters, numbers and emojis on it.  To use this, I have kids open on their devices and I open Apple Classroom. I view all their screens at once and then ask a question. They click on the slide of their answer choice and make it full screen and the color code helps me see really quickly who has the right answer. 


Screenshot of Keynote Quick Pick slide

4 - Yes, and

This one is borrowed from my favorite professional learning group!  Yes…and is a game that we play in class where I make a statement, for example: "The top layer of the skin is called the epidermis."  Students raise their hand to “yes…and” my statement. “Yes, and the epidermis contains pores that connect to the sweat glands below.” We keep going until we run out of thoughts. The last student to add something is named the winner. 

5 - Kaboom

This is one of the class favorites. I believe this originated at the Ron Clark academy many years ago.  I borrowed from a friend and added my own rules.  Each group of 4-5 kids receives a bucket that contains strips of paper folded up, each with a review question or vocabulary word on it. When it's their turn, they draw a folded paper out of the bucket, read the question out loud, and attempt to answer from memory. If they get it right, they keep the paper, if they do not know or miss it, it goes back in the bucket.  There is a teammate that has the answer to verify. The fun part is that not every paper has a question on it. Some questions have Uno inspired rules ... .skip the next player ... .steal 2 papers from any team members…lose all papers…steal everyone's papers…

I set a timer for an undisclosed amount of time, like 8 minutes and 13 seconds or 4 minutes and 4 seconds so they never know when the game will end. When I call time, the one with the most papers wins.

Here is a link to the template I use if you are interested.

6 - What’s the Question

I provide a list of answers, usually just a word, such as pericardium.  Students have to write a question that the word would be an answer to.  Once everyone has a question, everyone stands up and someone reads their question out loud. If you have that same question, you have to sit.  Last person standing wins.  This encourages kids to try to come up with an answer that is not the most obvious solution. 


An example of what's the question slide shown to students

7 - Creativity Challenges

Most of my creativity challenges come from Apple’s Everyone Can Create.  These are always a class favorite because they get to be silly and creative but still have to show they know something.  Some of our creativity challenges have included: Design a “punny”  laptop sticker over today's lesson, Design a bumper sticker that states your opinion on our topic, Personify something at your lab table to explain the biggest take away from today. I have a few examples of student work posted here and plan to add more this school year!

I would love to know what creative ways you find out what your students know!   




All Comments

Posted on July 24, 2023

Hi Jodie

These resources look amazing. You have done such a great job. I'm certainly going to use some of these techniques myself. Thank you so much for sharing.

Posted on July 24, 2023

Thanks for this Jodi! I’m always looking for ways to encourage teachers to move beyond the traditional test for a formative (and even summative) assessment. These are very engaging ways for students to show what they know.

Posted on July 24, 2023

Cheryl - I am working on another post for ways to do different summative assessments that are not tests too :)

Posted on July 25, 2023

Super! Looking forward to it. I think a lot of your CBL falls into that category.

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