Formative Assessments

Of course assessments are important in teaching as they help the teacher know what information is getting through to their students and what information is slipping through the cracks, but saving all assessments to the end (summative assessments) that don’t allow for teacher feedback and student revision to help with improvement aren’t nearly as important as checkpoints that a teacher and student can build on together (formative assessments).

Formative assessments are an excellent way for teachers to help steer students on track and plan lessons that address the difficulties that students are having. As Rick Wormeli addresses his video on formative and summative assessments (2010), the former allow teachers to:

  • Provide descriptive feedback to students to help discover a concept or tool, or when necessary, to point out the concept or tool that the student has missed
  • Re-explain the main goal or objective and explain where the student is in relation to the goal
  • What the student and teacher can do together to close that gap

These are all great ways to give all students a chance to achieve their potential instead of trying, not finding out what they’re doing wrong until the end of a unit, and then essentially saying, “Better luck next time.”

As a huge fan of formative assessments, I am going to propose three examples that I would use when teaching a writing lesson in which the overall goal is for a fourth grader to produce an organized and well supported opinion piece.

Lesson Topic: Link opinion and reasons using words and phrases (e.g., for instance, in order to, in addition).

  • Objective 1. Be able to identify opinions and reasons, and use their own through speaking.
  • Objective 2. Communicate link words and phrases to other students and to the teacher.
  • Objective 3. Write sentences in which they link opinion and reasons using words and phrases.

Formative assessment: Circle Writing

This is a fun in class formative assessment that will give the students the ability to be really creative and serious or playful (their choice) with the linking words we’re using. The teacher will break the students into groups and give them a prompt for what to write at the beginning of the sentence and the students to complete the sentence in any way they want. Then, the teacher will ask the students to fold the paper over so the first sentence is hidden and pass it along to the next person in their group. The teacher then gives another prompt and again writes the prompt and finishes the sentence in their own way, folds the paper over, and hands it to the next person in their group. This can easily be done through pairs, groups of three, four, or five, and create some very funny pieces of writing.

At the end, the teacher can ask the students to open up their stories, share them, and talk about how ridiculous they turned out and how they don’t make any sense! Allowing the students to really talk about how one should use linking phrases to support an argument because otherwise, they just sound silly.

This really gives students the ability to feel ownership over their personal understanding of how to use linking phrases and collaborate with one another to discuss what they mean and how to use them.

Formative assessment: Google Drive Diaries

The teacher will give diary topics that involve giving an opinion on a topic and be asked to write at least one sentence with a linking phrase. For example, the teacher will ask the student, “What is the best animal in the world?” You must use a linking phrase in order to develop your answer. THe teacher will ask all students to comment on at least two of their fellow students’ google drive diaries to create a discussion. The teacher will monitor the discussion and assess how each student is doing with their diary as well as their comments as well as comment herself. This type of assessment will allow students to feel ownership over their work and allow the teacher to see where the class is overall and aid in shaping future lessons (i.e. maybe a few students had trouble using for instance, and we need to cover it again in class).

Formative assessment: Tiered Exit Cards

In this assessment, students are asked to use one of the linking words or phrases in a sentence before they are able to transition to another activity or leave the class. Me, as the teacher, would tier the cards based on which linking phrases are easier to use and which are more difficult. I will gather which students need the less challenging linking words versus which students need more challenging cards by continuously walking around the room and monitoring student performance. One thing we all know is that owning the room is huge, and I always plan on owning it. I think this is a great way to know where your students are with the material you’re covering. From that I will deduce which students get which linking phrase exit card. This is a great way to make sure that each individual student is able to write and use the linking phrases on their own. If they don’t, I can work with them individually and give them the feedback they need to learn how to use linking phrases correctly. 


Barchi, M. (n.d.). Daily Assessment with Tiered Exit Cards. Retrieved from

English Language Arts Standards » Writing » Grade 4. (n.d.). Retrieved March 21, 2016, from

Wormelli, R. (November 30, 2010). Rick Wormeli: Formative and Summative Assessment. Retrieved from


Understanding and Applying Standards

I thought this unit of module five was very informative. It was the first time I felt that we were really getting into the nitty gritty of everyday teaching. Clearly, not as much as when actually completing clinicals, but practicing activities that we will be completing on our own when we’re actually Teachers in the real world. So, I wanted to take advantage of this practice and working on something that I haven’t in my experience before – writing.

I selected a writing topic because I have never designed a writing class using Common Core Standards. In fact, the most common writing classes that I have had to design focus on a fiction, creativity, and fun, and generally way more geared towards using a specific grammar point. I thought this would be great practice to think of lessons that address the different elements taught in fourth grade to write an opinion piece instead of say, using the past tense when describing a memory.

So below is the standard that I have been exploring further.

“Write opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information” (English Language Arts Standards).

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.4.1.A – Introduce a topic or text clearly, state an opinion, and create an organizational structure in which related ideas are grouped to support the writer’s purpose.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.4.1.B – Provide reasons that are supported by facts and details.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.4.1.C – Link opinion and reasons using words and phrases (e.g., for instance, in order to, in addition).
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.4.1.D – Provide a concluding statement or section related to the opinion presented.

Reflections on Unpacking a Standard

In the beginning of this unit, I immediately felt a little bit like being dropped into the deep end. Though I have a lot of experience planning objectives and lessons to meet those goals, it isn’t always easy to break down standards into succinct ways that you can then map your lessons around. There are a lot of main ideas that we need to include and it can be overwhelming especially when you consider how much time you have available to teach over the course of the year.

While I was thinking of lessons to incorporate and achieve the goals that were in the Unit/Standard that I was attempting to break down, I don’t really know how my lessons would completely fit into the school schedule as I don’t have any idea how many periods per week I would have to dedicate to writing lessons that specifically meet those goals. That’s why, in the lessons I hoped to teach, I tried to think of ideas that could be interdisciplinary and work on multiple skills at one time.

Additionally, as in unpacking the standard with the skills that need to be taught (verbs) and the big ideas (nouns), there’s a whole lot hidden in that standard! For example, in the standard two skills include students writing pieces and supporting opinions. To me, while that sounds not so difficult, there is clearly a lot more packed in there. Students will need practice with introducing topics, stating opinions, thinking of and providing concrete reasons and information to support their ideas, etc. So this activity really showed me how much is really involved in even just one “itty bitty” standard.

Reflections on Standards and Backwards Mapping

I see VERY CLEARLY how much backwards mapping can really help. I think breaking standards/objectives/assessments down into these more achievable and measurable chunks make it easier to plan lessons (and not freak out!). While there is a lot teach in each of these standards, it has to be achievable in the time we have, right? So, we know it’s doable, and this is a great way to help me focus my lessons more and make sure I’m hitting all of the different skills and big ideas that I need to hit over a series of lessons.

For example, in this standard specifically, there are a lot of different elements that the students will need to practice and develop in order to really understand and eventually produce their own strong work, so it’s good for me to think about all of these different goals across subjects. That way, I could propose a writing piece on a Social Studies topic that has students writing an opinion (i.e. Is recycling a good thing?)

Reflections on Objectives for Students

Though I enjoyed writing the objectives for students, I struggled with making the words specific enough to my overall plans. Maybe I should have shown more examples of how I would achieve these goals instead of just stating the objectives themselves. Overall, I guess I found this activity easier than the others but maybe I misunderstood the activity (I thought the goal was to simply identify objectives, and only do that). I also thought I added additional reasons how these goals addressed a lot of different elements (the human dimension, critical thinking, creative thinking, etc.) in more further addressing how these objectives were SMART.

For the most part, I was attempting hit the different levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy (i.e. starting with identifying topics and reasons in other pieces, communicating those topics and reasons to the class and the teacher, eventually producing and creating their own work). I find it difficult sometimes to simply state objectives and somehow convey my specific goals without supporting it through my lesson plan. In activities such as this one, I have a lesson or lessons planned in my head and think about how I could describe that lesson through the terminology recommended in the required materials.

Reflections on Everything

I found the unit to be very helpful and pretty informative. I was excited to work on each part myself and to start honing in on more specific Teacher skills. I am eager to continue with this module and refine each of the skills related to planning.


English Language Arts Standards » Writing » Grade 4. (n.d.). Retrieved March 21, 2016, from

Clark, D.R. (January 12, 2015). Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning Domains. Retrieved from

Effective Use of Performance Objectives for Learning and Assessment (For Use With Fink’s and Bloom’s Taxonomies). (n.d.). Retrieved from

Standards and Backwards Mapping

I will be teaching a fourth grade class writing skills from the Common Core State Standards. The unit will be on writing an opinion piece. I’m specifically interested on working with writing as I have been teaching outside of the USA for five years and writing has not been my focus. I have generally been asked to focus on speaking and listening first, reading second, and writing as a very faraway third. So, in order to really tackle the writing aspect in my clinicals, I would like to give extra time to thinking of the best ways to teach writing (while of course, making it fun).  

According to the common core standards, the unit is to specifically, “Write opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information” (English Language Arts Standards).

In order to show that students have achieved these learning goals, students should be able to generate ideas for a writing piece, be able to draft their pieces, and be able to write and revise their own drafts to create a final product. As stated on the English Language Arts Standards, additional end goals include students being able to,

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.4.1.A – Introduce a topic or text clearly, state an opinion, and create an organizational structure in which related ideas are grouped to support the writer’s purpose.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.4.1.B – Provide reasons that are supported by facts and details.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.4.1.C – Link opinion and reasons using words and phrases (e.g., for instance, in order to, in addition).
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.4.1.D – Provide a concluding statement or section related to the opinion presented.

I will specifically focus on activities for the first and second sections of the standard above in this blog post (4.1.A and B), but more heavily on 4.1.A, which are the first two sections of the overall unit. I have focused on both because they overlap a bit and it makes sense to not teach one entirely exclusively, but to show instead how they work together and intertwine. This is about introducing a topic clearly, stating an opinion, and creating an organizational structure in which the ideas are related to the writer’s purpose. Sounds like a doozy to me! Students will have to accomplish the following proficiencies by the end of this unit:

  • Identify a topic that they have enough knowledge to support
  • Understand the difference between fact and opinion, and think of ways to support their topics using both
  • Create an organizational structure without the use of prompts to make their piece coherent
  • Support their overall topic or thesis by using their own ideas/reasons

Identifying a Topic

In order to identify a topic, and introduce the overall topics of writing opinion pieces, I think we should get reading. offers a range of texts (for free) that are geared to elementary students. They have different themes and they have a range of writing styles, including persuasive writing styles whose topics are great for fourth graders (i.e. Should kids have a TV in their bedroom). I know my students could discuss that for hours! In reading, we can start to identify the different elements of the articles and preview all of the different skills. Following this, students can brainstorm with another about topics they might find fun to write about. We can move this into a class discussion and have students write about their topic ideas on the board and discuss together how we might support one topic with reasons, and then move back into class discussion.

Understanding the Difference Between Fact and Opinion

We can’t read about everything, or students will get bored, so it’s time for a game. This is a fun way to review fact vs. opinion from PBS Kids Pinky’s Fact or Opinion Game. Fact vs. opinion is something that is also covered in Grade 3 according to the Core Curriculum Standards, so most students should have pre-existing knowledge of what this means. After explaining it myself, I will let students watch this video in groups or pairs (depending on the tech available at school) and play the game to identify whether it is fact or opinion. It’s nice because this includes a quick review as well as assessment, so it shouldn’t take up too much time, and will allow us to move into…

Organizational Structures

At this point, we can review what we have covered through “Develop a thesis statement,” by Rebecca Hipps (2012). This video reviews what we have covered so far – identifying a topic, fact vs. opinion – and goes on to describe how we can use our facts and/or opinions to provide supporting reasons for our selected topics. It also does a great job of modeling do’s vs. don’ts. Following this students will fill out a graphic organizer that specifically asks for topics and reasons. The students can then work together to discuss their topic ideas and reasons for picking this topic. They will be asked to give feedback to one another to help one another begin forming strong topics.

Creating an Organizational Structure on Their Own

Though I will use graphic organizers again to help students visualize how to structure their writing pieces into a logical writing assessment, I will test them through a puzzle game to see if they can organize paragraphs. I will type up topics and supporting reasons and laminate them and leave them on desks. I will then group the students and have them move around through the stations and try to put the short paragraphs in order as quickly as they can. Though there won’t be any prizes for the fastest teams, the students will be asked to work quickly and sit down when their team thinks they are finished. I will then walk around and make sure their team is ready to move onto the next station.

Reading an Article To Confirm How To Use Your Own Ideas to Support Your Topic

We will read more articles, students reading on their own, to circle the main topic and underline supporting reasons. The lesson will be differentiated in that some students will read more articles based on their reading ability, and some will read fewer if they are struggling to get through the text. There will be at least four articles available so students that work more quickly have additional articles they can read and continue practicing the skill. The work will be handed in to the teacher to be marked.


There will be assessments along the way to that will help me gauge if the students will be able to meet the desired end goals for 4.1.A and B. They will also allow me to give students feedback to help support the standard goals and make sure students are understanding the material and on the right track:


  • Read, Circle, Underline. – Identify the elements. The teacher will have students read a short article on their own and identify the topic by circling it, and underlining the three supporting reasons for the author to use that topic.
  • Arrange the Argument. – After the puzzle game, the teacher will ask the students to arrange sentences into a logical order on their own. They will have to arrange the topic and supporting sentences by putting them in the correct order. I will have them do this for at least three texts.
  • Write It Out! – Students will be asked to complete a short writing that introduces a topic and gives three reasons why they support that topic. The teacher will use a writing rubric to mark how well they are doing so far. This is an assessment that is just a stepping stone to the overall goal so that I can gain a better idea of where the students all are, and what we need to work on.

Each of these activities and assessments are on the road to reaching the overall goal: each student being able to write, Write opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information” (English Language Arts Standards). All of the activities will continue to build on one another to eventually have the students writing their own texts with confidence.



Arthur . Games . Binky’s Facts and Opinions | PBS Kids. (n.d.). Retrieved March 21, 2016, from

Connell, G. (2015, March 4). Graphic Organizers for Opinion Writing | Retrieved March 21, 2016, from

English Language Arts Standards » Writing » Grade 4. (n.d.). Retrieved March 21, 2016, from
Hipps, R. (2012, October 23). Develop a thesis statement–Lesson 2 of 6 (Common Core W.4.1a). Retrieved March 21, 2016, from

Applying Rules and Procedures in the Classroom: Thanks Class Dojo

Classroom management comes together and sets the tone when the teacher is clear and direct. To create and maintain classroom management throughout the year, I feel that the teacher needs to keep these specific ideas in mind:

  • Start classroom management strategies from day 1
  • Include your students in the process
  • Be “with it,” occupy your space, and be proactive (Marzano 2007)

Not one specific classroom management style is better than the next, but it’s important to use strategies that work for you.

Decision Chart Diagram (<–Click Me)

Here is a look at how I have and will make decisions in my class. It provides an overview of rules and procedures, and how they are implemented.

Class Dojo: A Behavior Tracking System (Life Saver) 

So, first and foremost, I am a firm believer in students having a strong role in classroom management. For that reason, in the past, I have asked students to describe what their ideal classroom looks like, what behaviors they feel are acceptable in class, and what behaviors they feel should not be accepted in the classroom. I also think that all students need to have a good understanding of what I expect from them, and for this reason, I like to use this activity in the beginning of the school year in conjunction with Class Dojo.

Class Dojo is a program that ties behavior management to a reinforcement and consequence system that is illustrated through attractive avatars and a point system. The program is completely visual and makes it really easy to understand when a teacher is either adding a point for good behavior, or taking away a point for class disruption.

This program is a great asset as it incorporates a lot of different strategies to get students involved in their own behavior management. For one, it is incredibly visual, and students get to create their own avatars to their liking, getting them involved with the program itself online where they can track their own behavior, and giving them ownership over their own behavior. It also allows for the parent contingency, as teachers can send out codes to parents to get them signed up and tracking their student’s behavior online anytime they want.

For parents without internet access, the teacher can print out a clear and colorful behavior progress chart for each individual student to be signed and sent back the next day. This chart details all of the plus points the student has received and for what (i.e. three points for raising hand before speaking, two points for working hard), which might give the parent incentive to praise their child for their good behavior. Alternatively, if a student had a rough day and has lost points, the parent may aid in punishment by asking their child to try to work harder when at school.

Another great element is the ability to use the group contingency. The teacher can use this in one of two ways. First, the teacher can group students if they are working collaboratively with one another and award or take away points from the whole group at one time. This will give group members incentives to do well, as they don’t want to be the weakest link, and disappoint their fellow group members. Second, a teacher could use the group contingency to affect the whole class. For example, if a portion of the students are being noisy, the teacher could provide two options. If the class is quiet, listening, and attentive for the rest of the day, the teacher will award the whole class a point however, if a few students continue not to listen and talk over the teacher or one another, everyone in class will lose two points. Similar to the first example, more often than not, one student will not want to be the reason for the whole class to lose a point, and the rest of the students that are listening, will help the teacher enforce the quiet and listening rule for the rest of the day.

As if I haven’t praised Class Dojo enough yet (yes, it does deserve a sticker), there is one very important element that I have left out. Tracking behavior over the course of the day, a week, a month, alerts the teacher to trends in positive and negative behavior, and helps the teacher be proactive in their praise or consequences. For example, while recording behavior, I might notice that a specific student is getting a lot of minus points for talking out of turn. This now signals me to a potential problem I may have throughout the week, and I can stop the behavior before it happens by making sure I’m “occupying the room” by spending more time around that student’s desk or keeping my eye on the student so he/she knows that I’m on it.

Receiving Points: Acknowledging and Praising Good Behavior

Some examples of positive behaviors that I would praise and award points for throughout the day  are as follows:

  • Raising hand before speaking
  • Working hard
  • Helping another student in the class
  • Completing homework
  • Transitioning from one activity to another quietly and quickly

I will use this program to show students their point values throughout the day by putting it on the screen in front of class. This will keep the students aware of how their behaviors are being monitored, and show them their daily progress. In conjunction with giving points to individual students or groups of students, I will also use verbal and nonverbal cues to praise good behavior. For example, if a student is working hard, I may give them a thumbs up or a smile and a nod to show that I have noticed their great work. Or if the class lined up quickly and quietly, I might say to them, “You have lined up really well, thank you,” to praise them for their good effort. Not all positive behavior will make it into the Dojo system (i.e. respecting one another, good work with class jobs which will be discussed further below, etc.), so it will be important to employ additional strategies (specifically verbal and nonverbal cues) that praise students for good work.

Lastly, I will try to message one student’s parent per day, to praise one of their good behaviors. This will give me a chance to get to know the parents and let the students know that their good behavior isn’t going unnoticed.

Losing Points: A Series of Graduated Actions Addressing Negative Behavior with Direct Consequences

Some examples of negative behaviors that would lose points are the following:

  • Talking out of turn
  • Didn’t complete homework
  • Fooling around in class
  • Fighting (which would be weighted for minus two or three points)
  • Bullying (which would also be weighted for minus two or three points)

While simply receiving a negative point works well for some students, others will need additional consequences to fully understand that they’re current attitude isn’t acceptable in the classroom. In addition to subtracting points, I will use the following series of graduated actions addressing negative behavior in the classroom:

  • One minus point on Class Dojo: Looking at the student (Disapproving teacher look)
  • Two minus points: Moving Toward the student
  • Three minus points: Verbal warning
  • Four minus points: Private discussion with teacher
  • Five minus points: Move seat away from buddies and next to teacher

Any loss of points beyond here will have to be dealt with depending on the student’s behavior issue. For one, I would send home the student’s individualized Class Dojo behavior pie chart to the parents, and ask for it to be signed and returned the next day, ensuring that the parents knew that today was rough, and in hopes that they would have a chat with their child. If the behavior was very severe, I would contact the parents either via phone or directly on the Class Dojo private messaging service to discuss the next steps for fixing the issue.

For any ongoing behavior issues, I would work with the parents and student to create a behavior contract, agreed to by all parties, and use an individualized checklist appropriate for the students behavior issue, to work on changing that behavior over the course of the year.

Procedures: Additional Strategies to Help Keep Students Engaged and Promote Positive Behavior

While losing points are an easy way for students to visualize specifically when their behavior is inappropriate, and needs to be changed into positive behavior, there are other strategies that I would specifically employ to get students involved and amped about positive behavior.

One way to promote responsibility in class is to create class jobs. It allows for students that feel the need to get out of the chair more often, the opportunity do so in a constructive and helpful way. Additionally, they feel responsibility over their job and making sure that they complete their it well. For example, some great classroom jobs as noted in Classroom Jobs for All Your Student Helpers (Wolfe), I would like to incorporate the following jobs that help to provide “positive interventions to limit negative behavior in difficult students” (Possible Classroom Consequences):

  • Paper Handler: passes out and/or collects class work, homework, blank paper, and so forth.
  • Alphabetizer: puts stacks of notebooks or papers in alphabetical order so record-keeping is easier and faster for the teacher
  • Messenger: delivers notes to other teachers or to the office
  • Nurse Buddy: accompanies students to the nurse’s office if they are sick or hurt
  • Librarian: keeps library neat and recommends a favorite book during a morning meeting
  • Ambassador: helps visitors or new students learn their way around and keeps them company at lunch and recess; explains classroom projects or displays to parents or visitors with questions
  • Recycling Chief: ensures bins are emptied regularly and reminds students to recycle whenever possible
  • Pencil Patrol: sharpens all pencils that need to be sharpened at specific times during the day

It All Comes Together

Using all of these procedures for promoting positive behavior, praising the good and giving out consequences for the bad, work together to create a happy classroom with consistent class management rules. They provide clear direction to the students on good behavior and give the teacher the ability to track behaviors over the course of the year in case any need to be corrected.


Class Dojo. (n.d.) Retrieved from

Consequences Hierarchies for Elementary – 3 Samples. (n.d.) Retrieved March 7, 2016 from

Lucidchart. (n.d.). Retrieved March 07, 2016, from

Marzano, R. J. (2007). The art and science of teaching: A comprehensive framework for effective instruction. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Possible Classroom Consequences. (n.d.). Retrieved March 7, 2016 from

Wolfe, S. (n.d.). Classroom Jobs for All Your Student Helpers | Retrieved March 07, 2016, from