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Powerful Formative Assessment Routine

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, this is well worth the 6 minutes it will take you to watch it. 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.

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  1. 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.

    1. 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.

  2. 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

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

        1. 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!

  3. 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!

    1. 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!

  4. 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.

    1. 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!

  5. 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!

  6. 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!

    1. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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!

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

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

    1. 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!

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

  11. 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!

  12. 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.

    1. 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.

  13. 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!


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

  14. 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

    1. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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!

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

  18. 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!

  19. 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!

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

  20. 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.

  21. 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!

  22. 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.

    1. 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.

  23. 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.

    1. 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.

  24. 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!!!!!

    1. 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.

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

  26. 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.

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

  27. 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!

    1. 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?

  28. 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

  29. Hello, I am really interested in watching this. As above, it says I can sign up for a free account to watch it but it does not appear that I can. Is it all paid subscriptions now?

    1. Hey Colleen! I didn’t realize that the Teaching Channel had done away with their free accounts. I’ve updated the post and embedded the video in it. Thanks for the heads up!

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