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Formative vs. Summative Assessments

How Does Formative Assessment Fit into the K-12 Classroom?

Formative Assessment Examples

Summaries and Reflections

Dry-Erase Boards

1. If you have a class set of dry-erase boards, have two students pass one out to each classmate. This assigned job can rotate and can include collecting them at the end of the day and, occasionally, cleaning them of any remaining ink.

2. As students record and illustrate on the boards, pass among the desks, assessing student understanding. You might carry a clipboard to make notes about misconceptions or different ideas for sharing with students at the end of the activity.

This activity will encourage students to write fuller, richer sentences.
■ First, have students write a simple sentence on their board—for example, “Damien runs” or “Mary studies.”

■ Then, pull one card at a time from a set of cards with the following words written on them: How? Where? When? With whom? Why?

■ As you pull one card at a time from the box, direct students to erase and rewrite their sentence to include the new information.

■ Have two or three students share their sentences after each rewriting.

Other options: Socrative, Googleforms


1. Either midway through a lesson or at the end, provide students with a large sticky note, an index card, or a half-sheet of paper.

2. Advise students that they will have two (or three) minutes to reflect on what they have just learned and
write about it.

3. State the prompt you want students to respond to. You may pose a question, ask for a summary

4. Have a few students share their reflections with the class. Alternatively, you can collect the QuickWrites
as Exit Cards.

Other options: Quick-read using sound recorder on computer or video.

SOS Strategy

1. Provide students with an S-O-S Summary sheet.

2. Write a statement (not a question!) on the board for students to copy. This activity works best when the statement is one which can be argued from two points of view.
  • The main character is a hero.

    ■ Recycling is not necessary in our community.

    ■ If you are young, it’s not important to have good health habits.

    ■ The city is the best place to live.

    ■ The Industrial Revolution produced only positive effects on society.

    ■ You don’t need to know math to live comfortably in the world.

3. Give students five minutes to agree or disagree with the statement by listing facts, data, reasons, examples, and so on that they have learned from class discussion, reading, or media presentations.

4. Collect the S-O-S Summary sheet to assess student understanding.

5. Make decisions about the next day’s instruction.

CCSS Connection: This can be used as a precursor to a Literacy Design Collaborative (LDC) assignment. PA Created examples can be found on the SAS Website.

Lists, Charts and Graphic Organizers

Top Ten List

1. Model the creation of a My Top Ten List using a topic listed below or one of your own choosing. Ask all students to contribute their ideas. As they do so, place their responses on the board under one of the following columns: “main ideas” and “details.” (Discuss the difference between a main idea—the principal ideas— and a detail—the specific facts about a main idea).

2. After students have exhausted their responses, let partners narrow the list down to the top ten.

3. Share as a whole class and try to come to some consensus about the main ideas. Help students recognize what is most significant about this unit of study.

4. Let students work with a partner to develop the next few lists that you assign. Allow them to use their notes and texts when compiling lists the first few times. After students come to know what a “quality response” looks like, one that provides main ideas, essential understandings, and key concepts rather than less important details, you can have students work on this activity individually.

Describe the Top Ten things you need to know about this historical event, including a description of what it is or was, the place and time period in which it occurred, its purpose,
its causes and effects, its signif icance, who was involved with it. how it is/was related to something else we studied.

Describe the Top Ten things you need to know about this historical figure, including: the place or time period in which the person lived, his or her background or position, the
person's accomplishments and his/her impact on society, the person's attributes, obstacles the person may have overcome.

Describe the Top Ten things you need to know about this concept, including its definition, attributes, characteristics, examples, to what category it belongs, how it works, steps
involved in it, tips and hints to help remember it, when we might use it in real life, why it's important to know about, how it is related to something else we studied.

Describe the Top Ten things about a character: attributes, quotes, what others say about the character, what others think about the character, what actions the character takes, what conflicts the character has, how the character changes over time.

Extension: Have students illustrate and/or record their top ten list - think David Letterman!


1. Duplicate and distribute the Matrix template.

2. Model for students how you would fill out the chart as you guide them in a rich discussion in review
of a topic (comparing characters, states of matter, types of landforms, characteristics of communities/
regions/biomes, etc.).

3. Have students fill in a chart of their own as you model and complete yours.

4. Provide students the language of compare-contrast so that they can speak and communicate clearly about the differences and similarities of the items being discussed.
Both Similar to
In comparison Much as
Each In the same way
However And
Similarly Also
Instead On the contrary
In common Same
In contrast But
One difference Different
Neither Although
Even though Whereas

5.After the next day’s reading or lesson, allow partners to work together to complete a Matrix template to organize and compare the information.

6. Once students are comfortable and confident in the use of this strategy to organize and compare information, assign independent tasks in which they do so.

In English language arts, to compare:
different genres
stories in an author study

In social studies, to compare:
time periods, civilizations
countries, states, or regions
political/historical figures or groups

In science, to compare:
human systems
weather and climate

In math, to compare:
problem-solving strategies
geometric shapes
types of graphs

Follow-up: have students write a compare/contrast essay using at least five of the fterms from Step 4.

Dump and Clump

1. Choose a topic, concept, or theme that you have been studying .

2. Write it on the board or an overhead transparency .

3. Ask students to generate as many terms as they can that relate to the topic, concept, or theme on the Dump and Clump sheet.

You can guide this activity with questions to evoke specific vocabulary . (What were the causes of the Revolutionary War? How did the colonists respond?)

Record between 25 and 30 terms .

4. Provide categories for the students to complete a closed sort (for example: British actions against the Colonists, Colonists’ reactions, Battles, Spies). Ask partners to group the one term under each label .

5. Ask several pairs of students to share the terms they have placed under each label and to explain the connections they have made in a certian tic-tac-toe direction - down, across, diagonal.

Another option: complete steps 1–3 and then have students engage in an open sort, organizing the terms in their own way and coming up with their own labels.

Visual Representations of Information

Picture Note Making

1. After a learning experience have students reflect and write about three key understandings that they have learned on the Picture Note Making handout.

2. After the writing is complete, allow an additional few minutes for students to sketch images related to the big ideas.

3. Collect the papers to assess student learning about the topic or concept. Provide brief comments as feedback.

Technology link: Use Glogster to make a poster or Paint to draw the picture.


Technology Option: Online Flipbook

Collaborative Activity

FInd Someone Who

1. Hand out copies of the Find Someone Who …Review template .

To save time, run the chart off with nine focus questions related to the present topic of study printed in each box .

2. Give students ten minutes to circulate through the room and ask their classmates who can answer questions on the sheet . Explain to them that each answer must come from a different student.Tell them to return to their desk when their charts are complete.

3. Call on random students to volunteer the person they have listed on their sheet to demonstrate/explain the answer to the group while the rest of the class records the information on thier sheets.

4. Circulate among students, taking note of student responses and assessing understanding .

Follow-up: Ask students to synthesize what they have learned (or reviewed) by having them write a brief summary . The summaries provide an opportunity for students to reorganize the information.

More Resources

22 Easy Examples
56 Examples
Dare to Differentiate Tools


Sources of Information:

25 Quick Formative Assessments for a Differentiated Classroom
Common Core Institute #3 Formative Assessment
St. Cloud State University