Formative Assessments

Varvara Leventopoulou

TeachNow Cohort 14

Through research, but also through my past teaching experience I learned that formative assessments benefit both, students and teachers. They help students to understand what academic content they have already mastered and what they have not mastered yet. Teachers on the other hand see where students are and can their further instruction accordingly. 

In the following I would like to share my strategies for using, changing, and modifying formative assessments in my classroom. I researched some formative assessments for English Language Learners (ELLs) ingrades 5/6 and want to present my findings.

Assessment 1

What’s the assessment and what will I ask my students to do?

Assessment 1 is a formative assessment about ‘weather’ and ‘holiday words’, topics which are usually covered within the first months of English instruction. I expect students to write down the words which were introduced and learned in class and create sentences with them (exercise 3). 

Assessment 2

What’s the assessment and what will I ask my students to do?

Assessment 2 is an alternative and interesting way to check the students’ knowledge of irregular verbs which have been introduced earlier. I expect students to write in the missing verb forms and then put the fish into the buckets by coloring them. This activity is very appealing to 5/6 graders because it includes coloring and sorting and younger students need a lot of diverse activities. 

Assessment 3

What’s the assessment and what will I ask my students to do?

Assessment 3 is about reading comprehension. Vocabulary and grammar assessments are formative assessments and help to check the taught material. After these formative assessments the students can be given a summative assessment about reading comprehension. Reading comprehension is a more complicated and elevated procedure than vocabulary and grammar quizzes. Students have to master grammatical phenomena and know a certain amount of vocabulary to be able to understand a text, sort paragraphs, identify right/false statements, etc. Reading comprehension is the last step before the most complicated procedure of mastering a language: producing texts, e.g. writing letters, reports, or essays. 

In this assessment I expect students to put the different parts in the correct order (exercise 1) and to underline the correct sentences (exercise 2). 

I personally think that it is very important to peer-review assessments with colleagues in order to be able to adjust and correct weak points. After having had my assessments peer-reviewed, I got some ideas on how to modify and better adjust them for my target audience. In the following I will cite the changes I would make based on the feedback I got.

The modification I would make for assessment 1 part 2 is to read out the sentences and ask students if they understand them. This way I would ensure that unknown words won’t hinder students fill in the gaps with the tested vocabulary word. In order to vary with the form of assignments I could give this assignment as an online assignment in Quizlet. Finally, as an additional idea for differentiation in part 1 and 2 I could provide a box that has all of the vocabulary words and the students could choose the proper vocabulary term to fill in the gap.

Assessment 2 is an offline assessment on irregular verb forms. I have tried it out several time and despite the concern that it might not be age-appropriate – students too old to color the fish – I can assure that students love this unconventional and innovative method to work with irregular verb forms. 

In assessment 3 – reading comprehension – I test for the vocabulary, the grammar, and the sentence structures the students have had so far. By analyzing the outcome, I will be able to see which content area the students have not mastered yet and by talking to the students I will know what to reteach. I could modify the extension of the activity by having students continue the dialogue between Susan and Mike. A very innovative proposal for presenting this assessment would be through a cartoon or comic strip.