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


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