Friday, November 04, 2011

Friday Formative Assessments

Each year I set up a different pattern of formative testing dependent on the school schedule and collective student profile.  This year, I typically give students a formative assessment on Friday.  I design the assessment to assess the weekly learning goals that lend themselves to a test assessment. These are the reasons why I like this formative testing pattern:

  1. It's a quick way to assess what goals students achieved and those that require reteaching.
  2. It's a way to assess my teaching weekly. Were my plans and efforts effective?  What can I tweak for better instruction?
  3. It helps me to form optimal groups for small-group instruction and individualized help.
  4. It gives me solid information to work with when planning the following week's schedule.
  5. It's an efficient vehicle for home-school communication related to students' academic development.
I grade the tests using a fraction: correct answers/total questions.  

There's a lot of discussion about tests related to education.  I still believe that formative assessments (tests) are a worthy element of an overall academic program.  Some students are highly motivated by tests and scores--they like testing their knowledge and working towards the testing goal.

Tests should not be the only assessment tool. I generally assess reading and writing goals through weekly reading response letters, conferences and book groups.  Students' written words and dialogue provide me with evidence of the skills they've gained and those left for greater instruction and focus.  That Quiz offers optimal tools for math fact skills and geography assessment. Project work is yet one more way to assess and develop learning.

An additional positive aspect of the weekly test is the hour of quiet concentration and focus it requires.  I watch students sit still and work.  I observe the way they tackle the test and the specific questions they ask me regarding the content  That also informs my instruction.  I try to plan the test when special educators are working in the classroom so they can assist students with IEP goals related to the content.  I ask the special educators and assistants to write notes on the side of the tests regarding areas that they helped with and needs for greater instruction.

Do you have a formative testing pattern in your classroom?  If so, how does it differ from my pattern?  What do you focus on when designing and responding to students' formative assessments?  I look forward to your responses as I continue to develop this process.