The Power of Formative Assessments

You probably remember a time when you incorrectly thought that you were ready for a summative test. After all, you listened during class, you glanced over your notes, and you didn’t have any questions. However, when test day came, things did not go as planned and the results were disappointing! Wouldn’t it have been nice to know ahead of time that there were gaps in your knowledge?

Formative assessments provide a way for both the student and the teacher to track progress. As the unit progresses, teachers take time to assess student understanding. This can be a simple and informal “fist to five” or a more structured and formal Edify quiz. However, regardless of the tool used, the teacher can use the information learned to guide their whole class instruction and/or provide differentiated instruction for each student. In addition, the rapid feedback regarding the formative assessment may serve as a wake up call to the student as it alerts them that they have not mastered the current material. This formative process allows problem areas to be identified and addressed prior to taking the final (and summative test).

Formative assessments can be offered in many different ways. Here are some great tools – give them a try!


Thumbs Up Thumbs Down – The title says it all! Use this to poll your students understanding.

Fist to five – Similar to a thumbs up or down, this method provides more options if you have five fingers!

Exit Ticket – As the students leave, see if they caught what you taught.

Think/Pair/Share – Have your students think, discuss with a partner and then share out with the class.

Stop Lighting – Similar to an exit ticket, students place a sticky note on green, yellow or red on their way out the door.

Socrative – Many options are available – including a simple “select A, B, C, or D” with no prep needed.


MoodleSocrativeGoogle Forms, & Edify can be used as “quizzes” to assess student knowledge.

**Need even more ideas? How about 56 Different of Examples of Formative Assessment? More still? The Teacher Toolkit has some great ideas as well!



  1. I would say in a perfect world, yes. However, in reality, there is an ending point as we run out of time – usually signified by a final exam. In our current form of re-testing, you could say even our Unit Tests are formative….


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