15 Formative Assessment Examples To Add to Daily Lessons
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15 Formative Assessment Examples To Add to Daily Lessons

Laura Lewis
Jul 9, 2024

Formative assessments are low-stakes ways for teachers to track student understanding. They’re pulse checks used during a lesson or unit to power differentiated instruction and ensure student learning stays on track. Teachers in every grade band use them naturally each day to discover where their students get the information and where they need extra support.

In this article, we’re looking at 15 formative assessment examples that you can use in your daily lessons to track student progress and adjust instruction:

  1. Quizzes

  2. Bell ringers

  3. Question or problem of the day

  4. Exit tickets

  5. Checks for understanding

  6. Polls

  7. Performance tasks

  8. Pre-tests

  9. Student reflections

  10. Emoji ratings

  11. Jigsaws

  12. Write-Pair-Share activities

  13. Know-Wonder-Learn activities

  14. 3-2-1 Countdowns

  15. State test practice items


1. Quizzes

Teachers and students are both familiar with quizzes. They provide valuable data about student performance and help you identify student learning gaps, find where they have misconceptions about a lesson, or check skill mastery. Quiz results can help you adjust instruction, such as adding reteach activities or spending less time on content students already understand.

Newsela articles include standards-aligned, four-question quizzes to test students’ comprehension and reading skills. After students complete the quizzes, teachers can review quiz scores from their assignment dashboard, reset scores for additional practice, or download quiz data for analysis.

The Formative Library offers a variety of quizzes for different subjects and grade levels that you can copy and customize to fit your lessons. The Library is a place for our team and Formative community members to share beneficial assessments and lessons you can copy and customize, like this fractions quiz for third graders from Lynn Hofer.

2. Bell ringers

Bell ringers are short assessments students complete when they enter the classroom. The goal is to get students engaged immediately and prepare them to think about the lesson material for the day. Bell ringers can also help students review what they learned in the last lesson to prepare for the next class. These formative assessments are typically short, between three and five questions or prompts.

The types of bell ringers you use may depend on what grade or subject you teach. ELA classes may kick off the day with journaling or writing prompts. Math classes may start with practice problems or science classes may open with short vocabulary-matching games. 

You can find bell ringers in the Formative Library by filtering for Do Now/Warm-Up exercises, like an identifying fractions bell ringer for ninth and tenth-grade math classes by Kellie Marie Ma. You can also add a bell ringer lesson block to the beginning of any lesson in presentation mode.

3. Question or problem of the day

Questions or problems of the day are a specific type of bell ringer phrased as a single question or includes a single mathematical equation to solve. They’re specific to the daily lesson and are thought-provoking to spark students’ curiosity about the class ahead. These types of formative assessments are also good for building critical thinking skills.

Questions of the day are engaging because you can refer to them as an anchor point while teaching the lesson. Students write responses at the beginning of the lessons and then learn the content. You can return to the question or problem again as an exit ticket and ask students to update or revise their answers based on what they learned.

4. Exit tickets

Exit tickets are informal assessments at the end of a class or lesson. They’re a quick way to see if your students understood the material you covered. The responses help you adapt instruction for the next lesson to meet students’ needs, like finding opportunities for reteaching.

You can access exit tickets for all classes and grade bands in the Formative Library by filtering for Exit Slips. You can also pick from a selection of lesson blocks specifically designed to share with students at the end of a lesson to check in on what they learned. Or you browse our blog where we handpicked some of our favorite exit tickets from the Library.

5. Checks for understanding

Checks for understanding are formative assessments baked into your lessons to evaluate how well students understand the material. They can be oral, such as asking your students questions and taking answers. Another option is to administer them digitally to record students' answers and allow everyone to share their thoughts. This more holistic approach lets you check in on all students, not just the ones brave enough to share in front of the class.

This back to school, Newsela texts will have four reading comprehension checks embedded in the content to help students slow down and take in what they read. Teachers can choose to assign these formative assessments and students must complete them before they can move on in the text. 

These assessments are intended to be low-stakes, and therefore results won’t appear on your grading pages or in your student data reports. Instead, they’re a tool for your students to focus on close reading and understanding the content you assign rather than trying to rush through the content to finish and move on.

6. Polls

Polls are an excellent way to pulse-check a lesson. They can be as informal as posing a question with at least two responses and asking students to vote with a raised hand. For data collection, digital polls let you track, use, and analyze student responses to influence instruction.

Every Newsela article includes the option to add a poll before students read an article or take a quiz. You can choose from a list of pre-created polls like:

  • Have you heard of this topic before?

  • Do you think you will connect to the information in this article?

  • Read the article title. How familiar are you with the topic?

Poll prompts have between two and four potential responses. Some questions include text responses and others use emojis. You can edit existing polls to change the question text, answer responses, or add up to five potential responses. There’s also the option to start from scratch and write your own poll questions with up to five responses.

After students vote, they’ll see class-wide results that update automatically without the need to refresh. Teachers can see poll results by visiting the assigned article in their dashboard.

Formative’s new lesson blocks feature lets you generate formative assessment opportunities to add to the beginning, middle, or end of a lesson in presentation mode. One of these lesson blocks is a customizable end-of-lesson confidence poll that gauges how well students think they understand the content covered in a lesson. 

7. Performance tasks

Performance tasks ask students to demonstrate their knowledge with a tangible product or performance. Common projects include oral presentations and book reports, but can also be more creative. For example, you may ask students to write a newspaper article set during the Boston Tea Party or create a Rube Goldberg machine to demonstrate physics concepts.

Performance tasks are appropriate for every subject and grade level. They’re especially useful in subjects outside the core curriculum, like art, music, and PE, where you want to test students' abilities rather than content knowledge.

The Formative Library offers plenty of performance task assessments you can adapt for your classroom. Meghan Borg’s PhET States of Matter assessment invites students to work with a simulator to see how atoms behave in different states. This type of performance task allows students to experiment virtually to show what they learn in science class.

8. Pre-tests

Though some consider pre-tests their own assessment type, they can also be a formative assessment. You can use them to collect information about what your students already know on a topic or their proficiency with a skill before you start a lesson. The information you collect helps determine their readiness levels and inform instruction.

For example, a math teacher may give a pre-test before starting a lesson on polynomials to see how much students already know about the topic. The teacher can jump straight into a more detailed, intricate lesson if they’re familiar with the topic. If the pre-test shows students know little about the topic, the teacher can provide more review to rebuild their foundational skills before jumping into the lesson.

You can find pre-test lessons and templates by filtering for them in the Formative Library. Our example teacher may find Patricia O’Rourke’s polynomials readiness quiz beneficial for their pre-test!

9. Student reflections

Student reflections or self-assessments let students look back at their learning and the knowledge they’ve gathered. Students rank or rate what they learned or how well they think they learned it at the end of an activity, lesson, or unit.

Self-reflections may include the rubric you use to evaluate their performance. They can also contain general questions like, “What do you understand about this lesson?” or “What still confuses you about this lesson?”

You can find self-reflection activities by filtering for them in the Formative Library. Andrew Franck’s group project self-reflection gives examples of questions that can get students thinking about their strengths and weaknesses within a content area. You can also add the end-of-lesson “Today I learned…” lesson block to your presentations to prompt students to reflect on the day’s content.

10. Emoji ratings

Emoji ratings can help you pulse-check how students feel about a topic or a lesson. They give you a quick overview of who feels confident and who doesn’t. 

As with polls, digital tools help you get insight into every student’s thoughts and feelings with this formative assessment. Responses are often anonymous to other students, which may encourage them to tell the truth about their feelings or proficiency. Emoji ratings are also good checks for younger students who are still learning to read or English learners who are building content knowledge alongside learning a new language.

Newsela’s article polls allow you to create emoji reaction questions, and some pre-created poll prompts already include them. Formative also has emoji response activities and assessments you can customize to fit your lesson. Use the beginning-of-lesson emotion check lesson block or Liliana Guitierrez’s emoji exit ticket from the Formative Library. Search the keyword “emoji” in the Library search bar to find more.

11. Jigsaws

Jigsaw activities help students work with their classmates to learn more about niche areas of a larger topic. This group formative assessment takes all their learnings and fits them together like a jigsaw puzzle, hence the name.

You can assign each student a subtopic that connects to a greater content topic in your lesson. For example, if you want to build background knowledge on the Revolutionary War, you may assign students subtopics like causes of the war, battles, or outcomes. 

Students work independently to research their subtopics. Then they come together with their larger group to share information and fit their pieces together. These small groups typically will also do a performance task to share information about the greater topic with the rest of the class. 

Download your printable: Jigsaw group activity

12. Write-Pair-Share activities

Write-Pair-Share activities ask students to follow three steps:

  1. Write down answers to a question the teacher asks.

  2. Get into pairs.

  3. Share their answers with a classmate.

While paired up, students can discuss the reasoning behind their answers with each other. This can be especially interesting for open-ended questions where students provide different answers. While students engage in discussion, you can circle the room and listen in on what they’re saying to check their understanding of the topic. Newsela has a Write-Pair-Share worksheet that you can use to record student responses.

Download your printable: Write-Pair-Share worksheet

13. Know-Wonder-Learn activities

Similar to Write-Pair-Share activities, Know-Wonder-Learn (KWL) activities ask students to respond to three prompts:

  1. What did you know about the topic before the lesson?

  2. What do you still wonder about the topic?

  3. What have you learned about the topic?

KWL activities are flexible and you can tailor them to any lesson you’re teaching. All you need is a topic. Newsela has a KWL chart printable that you can share with your class to record their answers. You can also do KWL activities orally for younger students or English learners who may be working on their reading and writing proficiency.

Download your printable: KWL chart

14. 3-2-1 Countdowns

Like KWL activities, 3-2-1 countdowns prompt students to share three sets of information in groups of three, two, and one. They’re also highly customizable and can fit any lesson or topic. 

Newsela provides a 3-2-1 bridge activity worksheet that asks students to complete this activity twice: once at the beginning of the lesson and once at the end. It also asks students to compare their answers and self-reflect on what they learned.

Download your printable: 3-2-1 bridge activity

15. State test practice items

Released items or released tests are state standardized tests that previous students have already taken and aren’t used in active state testing anymore. They may also include:

  • Test questions and answers

  • Question content difficulty information

  • Assessed standards

  • General information about past student performance

Some states release this information to help educators and students prepare for standardized testing. You can use these released items as formative assessments to help students familiarize themselves with test formats, question styles, and answer expectations. This helps them build test-taking strategies while assessing their skills and content knowledge.

Check with your school or district administrators to gain access to these released items.

Create engaging formative assessments with Newsela

Newsela’s product suite and resources provide plenty of opportunities to add and embed formative assessments right into your everyday lessons. Newsela ELA, Newsela Social Studies, and Newsela Science let you assign subject-specific formative assessments paired with high-quality content. You can also embed helpful formative assessment worksheets, like KWL charts, right into your lessons to print and share or customize and have students complete with Formative.

Formative lets you create a variety of formative assessments for any subject or grade band. It provides lesson blocks to easily add pre-made formative assessment activities to the beginning, middle, and end of lessons. Plus, it has all the customization features you need to make each assessment fit the needs of your students and your lesson content. 

Use our formative assessment builder and choose from 20+ question and content types to encourage students to show what they know in different ways. Other options to create a quiz in Formative include importing a Google Doc or enhancing a .PDF or .Doc file to make them interactive. With Formative’s daily instruction features, you can embed these assessments directly into your slides or presentations to make them a seamless part of your lesson delivery.

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