Quick Formative Assessments to Use Over and Over Again

Happy Summer! Mine is rapidly dwindling away... School starts on Monday!

I'm thrilled to be a part of the Bright Ideas Link-up this month. You'll find some fabulously helpful tips from lots of great bloggers :)

Picture this... it's the end of your not-so-hot lesson on {insert painful standard here}. 
You've sweated, cried, and maybe even prayed that this lesson goes well. Enter - duh duh DUUUUUHHH - the Blank Stare. Crickets. Even an "I don't git it" or two. GASP.

I'm sure this has NEVER happened to you... *cough*cough* me, neither. But, here's an easy and QUICK way to formatively assess your students before The Blank Stare settles over your classroom.

Instead of using a whiteboard to write down answers (for novelty, or for the sake of saving time if I need to quickly assess), I ask students to grab the "answer cards" as I've named them. Using 3-ring binder clips and laminated card-stock or index cards, I typed up a multitude of common answers. Cards include (but aren't limited to), True, False, Cause, Effect, Fact, Opinion, Yes, No, A, B, C, D, All of the Above, and the ???? choice.  Each of my second graders pulls out a set of cards from their materials basket. And I begin to rapid-fire questions at them, in order to assess how well my students have grasped the focus skill of the lesson.

For example, when teaching Time-telling, I might follow the following "script" after direct instruction or before/after centers:
Me: Students, let's use our Answer Cards to check for understanding. I'm going to ask you (one/some) question(s) about our lesson, and I want you to answer by holding up your answer cards. I will know that you're ready to hear the first question when you have your answer cards in your hands.

Me: True or False: The short hand on the clock tells us what HOUR it is. Think about that. {Here, I also ask students to whisper their answer to the table or shoulder partner after allowing adequate Think Time. This is a great scaffolding technique for struggling learners or English Language Learners}. Be ready to show me your answer in 3...2...1... SHOW ME.

(Students flip to the answer as I count down and hold up their answer choice when I say "Show Me.")
Easy as pie! So helpful for my younger guys, who can't always write the word "True" or "Opinion" on a whiteboard (depending on the content of the lesson) and hold up an answer.  It also prevents students from asking, "How do you spell FALSE?" when it's time to show what they know, thus NOT sharing the answer with EVERYONE else...

 These answer cards save time, and last a long time! I've had this  class set for quite a few years. And I asked a room parent to make them for me, which worked even better!

It's a great idea to choose two to four colors and color code your cards using opposites like True/False, Fast/Opinion, Yes/No so that the visual is even more clear as you scan the room for understanding. This highly engaging way of assessing students has been so useful for me, and even easier to plan for. I use my answer cards almost every day.

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For more bright ideas from other fabulous teacher bloggers, be sure to browse the link-up below and select the subject/grade level that interests you. Thanks for visiting!


  1. I LOVE this idea...we've been using our whiteboards, and let's face it...second graders all look at what everyone else is writing, no matter how many times you tell them not to. This would keep their answers a bit more hidden since they have to find it.

    Will try this for sure!

    1. I know they do. That's why I only use a couple of colors to help keep those "wandering eyes" guessing... I'm glad that you like the idea!

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  2. GENIUS! I am loving this and I'm going to make them tonight!!! I feel your pain about starting early. We have one more week off than you, but everyone else in the area starts three or four weeks after that :( Guess it evens out with the longer fall and spring breaks :)

    1. Ugh, I'm counting down the hours... but the good news is that at least with school starting tomorrow I'll be exhausted when I go to bed, which makes it highly unlikely that I'll wake up in the middle of the night to think the billion things that I still need to do. I'm ready to get this year started already :)
      Good luck with your school year!

  3. How do you type them up to make them so professional looking? Great idea. Does each student get a set of cards? or Can you have the table have one set and the four students can discuss before noting an answer? I have over 550 students a week. I think I could get a set for each table area and do that. I'm going to get a whiteboard this year (I think).