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How can I conduct formative assessment virtually?

december 1, 2020

Throughout the instructional process, it’s important for teachers to utilize formative assessments to evaluate the progress of students’ learning. After all, we don’t want to wait until the end of a unit to learn that students misunderstood a foundational idea that was taught early on.

While effective educators have long used these mid-stream assessments in traditional, in-person classrooms, this type of evaluation needs to be part of remote teaching as well.

Here are three easy-to-use formative assessment strategies that can work in any subject area.

Exit Ticket

When teachers want to find out from every student what they are thinking and what they are understanding, the exit ticket is an effective tool. During in-person learning, exit tickets involve students responding to a question on a piece of paper and turning it in on their way out the door. In a virtual classroom, the principle of the exit ticket remains the same, but students might submit their responses within a shared Google document or an individual Google form.

Hold-up cards

During our professional development for teachers, the team at Smekens has long advocated the use of “hold-up cards” to boost student engagement.

Hold-Up Cards

When teachers use hold-up cards within the traditional classroom, students are each provided a set of laminated cards on a ring. Tweak this for a virtual activity. Instruct students to quickly make their own hold-up cards by simply folding a piece of paper into quadrants, cutting it apart, and writing the possible answers on each piece (e.g., A, B, C; True, False; Yes, No, etc.).

Just like in the in-person classroom, when the teacher poses a question to the class, the students select their individual answers, conceal their cards, and wait for the teacher to say “1, 2, 3 Show me.” Upon that command, all students reveal their answers, holding it in front of their web cameras. Scanning the class on gallery view, the teacher can quickly assess student understanding, correct misconceptions, and then move on to the next question.

Video follow-up post

Exit tickets and hold-up cards work well as a follow-up to live instruction. However, formative assessment can follow a pre-recorded video as well. Teachers can prompt students to identify what knowledge they gained from watching it. For example, “Tell me two things you learned and one thing you already knew.” Or, “Tell me one thing you learned and one thing you thought was funny.” Students could post their responses via an email, a shared Google document, or dozens of other mediums.

Regardless of the formative assessment technique utilized, be sure students know that it is not a quiz and you are not taking a grade on their responses. Let them know the purpose is to simply see where they are in their individual journeys of learning.

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