Like many teachers, I use informal formative assessment daily to gauge student learning. These mini-checks may take the form of exit slips, quick mini-conferences with students, or observations. With an increased emphasis on individual growth, though, one of my goals for this year was to make my use of formative assessments more intentional.
Cue the formative assessment plan.
I’m a huge believer in backward design (my Understanding Backward Design workbook is very dog-eared at this point). My method – start with standards and understandings, plan assessments and end goals, design instruction. As I crafted units with daily plans for this year, I simply incorporated a new step: designating which activities and products would serve as formative assignments and how those pieces would inform the learning activities that took place next.
Here’s an example of how this would work:
One of the standards my eighth graders will return to this nine weeks is ELACC8RL5, which asks them analyze how the structure of two or more pieces of literature contributes to meaning and style. I have two formative pieces planned with two different Civil War poems. In the first, students are guided by a graphic organizer through analyzing the structure, meaning and style of one poem. I can spot check that organizer and know what kids need to practice with the second poem (hello, flexible grouping!). For the second poem, students again analyze structure, meaning and style. Some may have a graphic organizer. Others may be more independent. Some may be a small group with my support. All of those instructional decisions are guided by the first formative activity. After this activity, students receive a new set of poems and are asked to work through the analysis independently (no small groups this time). Again, I can provide the scaffold of a graphic organizer or guided questions as indicated by the second activity. The entire process is intentional and embedded in the daily plan breakdown of my overall unit.
So far, I’ve been very pleased with how this works. My students are growing, and my instruction is very targeted.
How do you plan for formative assessment?