Formative assessments are assessments that inform instruction (for learning), while summative assessments are assessments of learning. Only by knowing where each student is on their learning path can we truly differentiate their instruction.
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Categorizing assessments as either formative or summative can be a little tricky. For example, we usually think of a test as summative, but as elementary teachers don’t we still use that information to drive instruction? If I give a unit test on addition and subtraction strategies and Johnny makes a 56, won’t I still analyze what he missed and use that information to continue remediating Johnny? I sure hope so!!
As you seek out ways to formatively assess your students, thhis video from the Teaching Channel is well worth the 6 minutes it will take you to watch it. You will need to have a free account with the Teaching Channel to view the video. As you start to watch the video, please do not be deterred by the fact that the teacher is an 8th-grade algebra teacher. I think you will immediately see how you could apply this in an elementary setting.
The daily routine this teacher uses is called My Favorite No. As a warm-up, her students complete one or two review problems on an index card, she collects the cards and sorts them into “yes” and “no” piles (correct and incorrect answers), and then the class analyzes her “favorite no”.
One more quick comment before you grab a cold soda and enjoy the video. Notice that the teacher knows the most common mistake that students typically make on the type of problem she has given them on this day, and she has addressed that mistake in her instruction to the point that her students no longer make it. That is critical, but it’s the kind of knowledge that can take time and experience to acquire. Want to fast-track that process (I hear lots of people yelling YES!!!)? The book Math Misconceptions is a fantastic resource for better understanding the most common mistakes that PreK-5 students make on every conceivable type of problem.