Chapter 3, Show Me

“Show Me is interactive in that its use can provide an indication as to the extent to which what has been taught has been learned. “ The Formative 5, page 63

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We are really getting into the meat of the The Formative 5: Everyday Assessment Techniques for Every Math Classroom by Skip Fennell, Beth Kobett, and Jonathan Wray. The hashtag #Formative5BookStudy was hopping with lots of great conversation! If you have not tried Twitter for professional development, this might be a great time to jump in. If you can do Facebook, you can do Twitter.

Reading schedule


  1. Follow the reading guide posted above. Each Monday listed on the schedule, I will publish a post with my thoughts. I’m planning to use the format suggested in the book study guide included at the back of the book (Sharing, Aha!, and Let’s Try!).
  2. Participate by adding a comment to this post or by replying to the comments of others. Your comment will be displayed once approved.
  3. Use the hashtag #Formative5BookStudy to participate in a slow Twitter chat. Search on the hashtag anytime during the week to follow the conversation. I will be posting questions throughout the week, and you can add your thoughts using the same hashtag, as well as the hashtag #Formative5, or just read what others are saying. If you haven’t used Twitter for professional development, this is a great way to start.


The Show Me strategy fits nicely along with the Observation and Interview strategies. I like that they are all interrelated, because it makes the process seem more doable to me. In other words, you’re going to observe and, based on your observations, you might choose to interview some students and others you might give a Show Me task. Again, it really comes down to the planning piece. If you intentionally plan and anticipate the types of responses you might get and how you might follow-up with interview questions or Show Me tasks, it can all be seamless as you are teaching. It definitely requires up-front work, but the payoff is huge and each subsequent year the prep work diminishes. The Show Me planning questions on pages 66-67 are very thought-provoking and provide a great road-map for planning. It’s also important to think of the instructional environment. It would be hard to accomplish these formative assessment strategies in a classroom based largely on whole group instruction. The strategies are really student-centered and would fit perfectly in a Guided Math/Math Workshop structure.


Were you not impressed with the videos of the students showing and discussing their work? I thought their ability to express their mathematical thinking was phenomenal. Think about the seventh grade problem on pages 74 and 75. Each of the students chose a different strategy to solve the problem. And I loved the way they used labels to identify the meanings of the fractions. None of them just said 9/15, they all described it as 9 shots out of 15 and continually referred back to the meaning of the numbers. That kind of attention to the context of the story is essential for making sense of math and developing mathematical comprehension. And that doesn’t happen by accident either. It’s clear from these examples that Mrs. Hu has developed a classroom culture where differing strategies are celebrated and being able to concisely explain your mathematical process is an expectation. Once again we see the power of using technology to enhance the Show Me strategy.

Let’s Try!

My challenge is to synthesize all of the recording sheets into something manageable for planning. I envision an overall formative assessment planning sheet that can be used during planning. One that could be used to make note of the content, mathematical practices, and anticipated strategies/misconceptions. Then there could be spaces to consider each of the Formative 5 strategies. Almost like a flow chart of sorts. For example, if you observe this, then try this. It would also incorporate a place to indicate students that might need special attention. It’s something I plan to work on, but probably not until after reading more about the last two strategies. If I come up with something, I’ll be sure to share it.

Your Turn

Share your thoughts and/or observations either below or on Twitter using the hashtags #Formative5BookStudy and #Formative5. Look for the next post on Monday, July 23rd.

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  1. I have a goal of getting my students to have more time for “math talk”. I want them to be comfortable with this kind of discussion where they show the how but can explain the why. All last year, I worked with my students about discussing what level of depth of knowledge they were working at. This all fits with that. For me, the prior planning and developing classroom routines for making it happen are my stumbling blocks and my cop outs.
    My aha are the shared forms. They all looks so good, but I want to make them my own. I agree that they need to be streamlined somehow to make them less time consuming and more user friiendly.
    I am currently in a position where my administration is asking us to be cookie cutter teachers. All teachers of a subject are expected to be on the same page on the same day, which affords no differentiation and no ability for teaching style to happen. It continues to be a very frustrating situation

  2. My goal is to more intentionally plan for the use of the Show Me strategy. I have always asked students to show me their work/solutions. While they sometimes do this, they are still uncomfortable actually explaining their reasoning and thinking. Intentional planning and anticipating what I might see will lead to more focused small group instruction and better opportunity to foster mathematical thinking and communication. This chapter has given me valuable insight in how this strategy is related to the previous two and how to plan and anticipate the use of Show Me.
    My challenge is also adapting the use of the recording sheets in a way that makes sense for me and hep with my planning. I’m excited about the possibilities for my classroom!

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