This is a written copy of the information we put on the board during our BLT time on December 1st. The topic, if you recall, was formative assessment. I have written the items I put on the board that were my notes from Tovani, and then I have included the list of things we do well and areas, generally, where we thought we could improve (I thought about cramming the whole thing into one list of "formative assessments that work" for our department but chose to keep it in the form we saw it so we would recognize it better).

A few tidbits from Tovani


Driving questions

  • How do I know that my students are getting better?
  • How do my students know that they are getting better?
  • If they are not getting better, what am I doing to make sure they improve?

Tovani proposes that we have a bit of a problem as teachers when we are asked the first of these two questions and our response is, "Well, I won't know how well they know it until I grade the test."

A follow-up question to the above (call it a focusing question) goes like this: Am I doing assessment for me or for the students?

Tovani shared two analogies for formative assessment (to differentiate it from summative assessment)
  1. An athletic coach - A coach prepares for a coming game by looking back at the previous matches and adjusting training to respond to them. The coach also looks ahead to future games and tweaks preparation to accommodate it.
  2. An autopsy vs. a medical checkup - With an autopsy, one learns a lot (the cause of death, the condition and health of the deaseased) but it is too late to help that individual. The information can be used to help only the still living. With a checkup, it is not too late to help the patient. Formative assessment hopes to help the patient before he's dead.

Characteristics of formative assessment

  • Used throughout the instructional process
  • Information is fed back to students
  • Results are used to modify/adjust instruction

A key way of thinking about the process for us is to ask as teachers, How can I find out what my students know without killing myself?


What we're doing


What do we do?
How can we improve?
  • Exit tickets
  • KWL charts
  • muddiest point
  • text annotation
  • T-chart
  • Double entry journals
  • thinkmarks
  • "Ask 3 before me"
  • graphic organizers (venn, herringbone)
  • practice quizzes
  • white boards
  • guided discussion sheets
  • anticipation/reaction guides
  • In-your-face feedback (over the shoulder peeking)
  • Checkpoints/process grading (like w/ the research paper)
  • games
  • individual conferences
  • 3*2*1 charts
  • Chop up big assignments
  • Coaching-mentality
  • Color-coding works cited pages
  • Edutainment
  • Explicit goals (tell/share them with the students)
  • Relax & take our time (prioritize)

Formative Two


Observations after groups met and discussed specific examples of formative assessment.
  • Picked up a couple new ideas that will be good & fun (eg - gallery walks, instant failure with immediate opportunity to re-do)
  • Using formative along the way can increase confidence for the larger summative work (eg - steps along the way to a research paper)
  • Worked away from the buzz word formative assessment b/c we've been doing this under a different label