Powerful Formative Assessment Routine

Written by Donna Boucher

Donna has been a teacher, math instructional coach, interventionist, and curriculum coordinator. A frequent speaker at state and national conferences, she shares her love for math with a worldwide audience through her website, Math Coach’s Corner. Donna is also the co-author of Guided Math Workshop.

I spent the morning yesterday at a district instructional coach meeting, and one of our sessions was on formative assessment as a tool for differentiation. Do you get the connection between assessment and differentiation? 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.

This post contains affiliate links, which simply means that when you use my link and purchase a product, I receive a small commission. There is no additional cost to you, and I only link to books and products that I personally use and recommend.

As a short side note, we had an interesting conversation as we tried to categorize a list of assessments as either formative or summative. 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 use that information to continue remediating Johnny? I sure hope so!!

Back on topic…they showed us a video from the Teaching Channel that 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”. I’ve been doing a lot of research on the Common Core Standards for Mathematical Practice lately, and this routine just screams Practice #3, Construct Viable Arguments and Critique the Reasoning of Others.

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.

 

85 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    This gave me an aha moment, in one part. I have used student work before to demonstrate either something correct or something incorrect, but I always just put the student work up on the overhead. I liked how this teacher rewrote the incorrect work, that way none of the other students could figure out who made the error by looking at the individual handwriting. Why didn’t I think of that before?? Keeps that one student from being publicly embarrassed.

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      Yes! We all noticed that during the training I was in as well. Everything about how this teacher handles the routine is so respectful and positive.

      Reply
  2. Anonymous

    Love this idea. I will share it with a group of 2nd grade teachers from around our district. We have the best information! Thanks for sharing.
    Terri B

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      Perfect, Terri!! So glad to hear that you’re sharing it with others.

      Reply
  3. Mrs. C. Johnson

    I would like to see a video of this in action. I get it, but not sure how to execute it.

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      The video is embedded in the blog post, right above my signature. Are you not seeing that when you view the post?

      Reply
    • Cristina

      I will be incorporating this in my class soon

      Reply
    • Ann White

      Not seeing it

      Reply
      • Tracy

        There is no link to the video above you name???

        Reply
        • Donna Boucher

          Sorry, Tracy! It was embedded in the blog post, but must have gone away during the migration from Blogger to WordPress. It’s back now!

          Reply
    • Ann White

      Saw it now. Thank you. Trying to break it down to a grade two level.

      Reply
  4. szafranteach

    FANTASTIC video and idea! I think this would be a great strategy to see students’ understanding and fully supports the math practices. Being a second grade teacher I would have my students talk with each other about their thinking to keep the engagement up even more. I am looking forward to sharing this when school starts again!

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      I know, right? I was blown away by it! Definitely worth sharing. 🙂

      Reply
    • szafranteach

      I used it with my class to help establish expectations for student work during math stations. They were really struggling with the direction of using unifix cubes to so equal amounts on a balance and then moving from CRA accurately. I finally did it as “My favorite no” and it made such a difference. I challenged them to be the teacher and notice what math was correct and what needed to be different. They discussed with partners and shared with the class. LOVE IT!

      Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      I love that…”what math was correct and what needed to be different.” Thanks for sharing! 🙂

      Reply
  5. Daphne Sneed

    Thanks for sharing this video. It gives me another great way to engae my students during the Warmup. I also liked that the teacher wrote the problem out.
    Daphne

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      My pleasure, Daphne! I really like how she adapted a routine that requires expensive technology to a really low-tech one. Teachers are so resourceful!

      Reply
  6. Anonymous

    This is great! It has a wonderful tie-in with Jo Boaler’s EdX math class so many are doing right now. We talk about the value of a flexible mindset and how GOOD it is to make mistakes and learn from them. Mistakes make your brain “grow” by forming new connections. This warm up show the students beyond a shadow of a doubt how valuable and teachable a mistake is. Wonderful!

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      I just started that course! For others who might be interested, here is the link. It’s a free online course offered by Stanford. Now I’m even more excited to get into it. 🙂

      Reply
  7. Angie Steltzer

    Another book recommendation- woo hoo! Although I think the husband is going to get irritated at the number of Amazon purchases I make because of your blog. 😉
    Thank you for posting this!

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      Sorry, Angie! Please don’t let your husband be mad at me. Ha ha. It was just such a perfect fit with this post/activity.

      Reply
  8. Anonymous

    Thanks so much for sharing. I was just in some math training today with Sandy Atkins (Creating Aha’s) and we were addressing this practice. I can see how this is a great way to help kids with the critiquing of others’ thinking, which I haven’t been truly effective with facilitating in the past. I now have a new technique to try.

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      Don’t you love starting the year with fresh ideas?

      Reply
  9. Roseanne Welte

    I love this – It is similar to a blog post I read about entrance slips instead of exit slips. Since I have Ipads I was thinking about using Answer pad to do this a few times a week. Thanks for the share!

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      Right, Roseanne! It could be a Ticket In. I think what’s so powerful about this process, though, is the conversations the kids have in analyzing the mistakes.

      Reply
    • Roseanne Welte

      I agree! Not just about who got the correct answer but why the wrong answers are wrong and everyone can participate without feeling picked on.

      Reply
  10. Jill

    I love this site. I use their videos all the time. This teacher is so thoughtful, considerate and reflective. An inspiration to us all.

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      Exactly, Jill! The teacher is very impressive. Did you catch how she told the kids to “put your pencil in your pencil slot (spot?)”. Great classroom management skills!

      Reply
  11. Tammy

    I LOVE IT!! I have already shared it with my colleagues!!

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      Awesome, Tammy! 🙂

      Reply
  12. live laugh love to learn

    I love this! This takes a bell-ringer to a whole new level and really makes it powerful. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      I totally agree! Excellent activity.

      Reply
  13. Betsy Delves

    This can be done with so many grade levels. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      You’re welcome, Betsy! 🙂

      Reply
  14. S Hollstegge

    I love this. Especially because it’s something I already do, not every day, but frequently. Of course, I don’t call it “My Favorite No”, but everything else is pretty much the same. I also use these for determining appropriate groups and partners for math for that day.
    Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      It’s always nice to have your ideas and practices validated, isn’t it?

      Reply
  15. Sandi MacDougall

    Thanks for sharing the video. Now to figure out a way to do something similar with K’s. Often writing down their answers (which keeps the anonymity)is a big challenge for K’s. We do partner shares, etc., but still everyone knows who said what. While I work hard from day one to create a classroom climate where it’s safe to risk and make mistakes, I really like that in the video, no one knew what student did the work.

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      Maybe it’s something for later in the year with K’s, but I’ll bet that now that you have it in mind, you’ll keep thinking about it until you figure something out! Ha ha.

      Reply
  16. Deb K.

    Donna,

    Just like all the comments before me, thanks so much for sharing. What a great idea, and so positive and non-threatening! I’ll be using this year in my 6th grade class. I also have ipads, I might try to use a google form for the problem..this part I need to work on. Love all the ideas you share!

    deb

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      So excited that this post has everyone thinking of ways to make it work in their room, Deb!

      Reply
  17. Cindy Flim

    I love this idea! I can see using this at least once a week to change up my DO NOW routine.

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      I guess the Do Now is your daily warm-up routine? Glad to hear that this will fit so well with it, Cindy!

      Reply
  18. MK

    I love this site, too! This warm up is a great idea, and I plan on implementing it this year. Do you think it would work as an exit ticket and discussion on the following day?

    Mary Kate

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      Sure, Mary Kate! That would give you a little more time to look at the responses and plan for which one you want to use.

      Reply
  19. The Wild Rumpus

    Thank you for this! We are going into full CCSS implementation this year, so I’m absorbing ideas from all around the blogosphere. This is fantastic.

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      Full implementation…how exciting! I’m sure you’re finding lots of great ideas!

      Reply
  20. galereed

    Inspiring! Will suggest this for a PLC, early in the year if possible.
    Thanks Donna. Every time I read your blog I get so EXCITED!

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      I get excited when I find great stuff to share! Ha ha.

      Reply
  21. Mrs. S

    Wow! This is definitely striking a chord with everyone. THANKS so much for sharing. I too had several ahhhh ha moments during this!

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      Yep, it’s pretty powerful!

      Reply
  22. tieszenl

    What a rich activity in so many ways. I will be sharing this with my staff to encourage use of the math practices. It could easily be adapted to any grade level. Thanks for the share!

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      My pleasure!

      Reply
  23. Mrs. T. Brown, REE

    Thanks for sharing this great video and also introducing me to the Teaching Channel. I’ve been following your blog thru the summer and hope to be a better math teacher for my firsties this year, thanks to you. I’m looking forward to more inspiring and educational posts!!
    Thanks again!
    Terri

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      I’m really touched by your comment, Terri! Always nice to hear that I’m spreading some good math vibes. 🙂

      Reply
  24. Anonymous

    I’m an ELA teacher and I could also use this strategy in my classroom. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      Oh, awesome! Glad it’s something you can use. 🙂

      Reply
  25. Heidi

    I love this teacher’s perspective on helping her students without making them feel embarrassed or less than smart. I look forward to doing something similar with my second graders.

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      Absolutely! She is so respectful, Heidi!

      Reply
  26. Anonymous

    I saw this video last summer and have incorporated this, along with Math Talks, into my math routine for my grade 4 students. They (and I) find it highly educational, as it allows us a chance to to do solution analysis on the interesting “No’s” and understand what that particular problem solver was trying to accomplish. This in itself helps us all understand how solving the problem works. Everyone in the class benefits!

    Reply
  27. Anonymous

    Oh I watched this video a long time ago and totally forgot about using this strategy! Thank you for the reminder. I am going to go take another look.

    Reply
  28. Anonymous

    Wow! I love watching excellent teaching! Thanks for introducing us to this great technique, Donna 🙂
    Vivian

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      My pleasure! 🙂

      Reply
    • Carol

      I showed this video to the teachers I coach last year. It is a great way to assess and is a teaching opportunity at the same time.

      Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      Exactly, Carol! Thanks for sharing it with your teachers. 🙂

      Reply
  29. Mrs. Pryor

    This was great. I can’t wait to use this with my 4th graders. So powerful. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      So glad it’s something you want to use! 🙂

      Reply
  30. Alyson Satchell

    I use this assessment with my second grade intervention blocks. It definitely is a powerful way to address common misconceptions and encourage students to analyze their work and justify their thinking. As a warm up, I distribute a problem, collect the work, and display “my favorite no”. the students absolutely love finding the error and verbally explaining it to the group. The strategy has also made the students feel more comfortable trying a problem, as they realize that it’s OK to make mistakes, as long as we can go back and figure out what went wrong.

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      I love that you were able to so easily adapt it for 2nd grade, Alyson!

      Reply
  31. Stacy

    I can’t see the video. Is there a link to it?

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      It is embedded at the bottom of the blog post, Stacy.

      Reply
  32. Billie jo

    Link to video is not showing 🙁 can you repost?

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      I have heard that it does not show if you are on an iPad. Maybe that’s the problem? I have added a direct link to the video at the bottom of the blog post.

      Reply
  33. Honi Bamberger

    Loved reading that you feel Math Misconceptions is a terrific resource. We wrote that book based on things we were seeing in our classrooms. It’s really heartening to see that others find it to be a valuable resource. THANK YOU!!!!!

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      Thank you so much for stopping in and leaving a comment, Honi! I have found your book to be hugely useful and have shared it with many.

      Reply
  34. N

    I have been using the Favorite NO for awhile now in third grade as a warm-up. The kids love it!

    Reply
  35. Kim McD

    I will be trying this tomorrow!

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      Glad to hear it! It’s a great routine!

      Reply
  36. Elizabeth Goold

    This is a great idea. Even better is that the post is several years old, but still just as relevant. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      Yes, good teaching never gets old, right?

      Reply
  37. Courtney Dettman

    Donna,

    I am a college student pursuing an elementary education degree. We talk about different assessments in our class but it is still an area that I would like to learn more about before having my own class. I thought that the My Favorite No activity was a great way to begin a lesson and quickly determine where students have misconceptions. I like that the teacher was able to quickly see how many students got the answer correct or incorrect and then address a common error right away.

    I am currently in a second grade placement and I could easily see how it could be useful. Currently, the students are reviewing three-digit addition and subtraction and this would be a way to address some of the misconceptions students still have without making them feel self-conscious about making mistakes.

    Also, thank you for the book recommendation about misconceptions. I may have to look into that for student teaching.

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      So impressive the amount of effort and thought you are putting into your future classroom! Makes my heart happy. 🙂

      Reply
  38. Penny

    At my small group lessons grades 4,5,6 the kids write their answer and then answer “what do you think that person was doing? How would you teach them? What would you do differently.? (Or I would take a photo and project on the screen for large groups).

    The Ohio Department of Education addresses math misconceptions with every concept… it’s a great resource!

    Reply
    • Anna Loving

      I started to look around on the Ohio Dept of Ed’s page, and there is a ton of great stiff on there! Thank you for the info! Are the misconceptions embedded in the standards?

      Reply
  39. Molly Moore

    Do you keep a record of the YES and nos and each child’s response or do you simply toss the cards after each session? I tried this yesterday and LOVED IT! Thank you

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      I keep the cards as a record of what I need to work on with each student.

      Reply

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