Mike Roberts high school english teacher utah

5 Formative Assessment Strategies to Help with Classroom Management

We need more strategies than fist to five or thumbs up thumbs down. Teacher Mike Roberts give five strategies that can help us with formative assessment AND classroom management.

formative assessment strategies

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Enhanced Transcript

5 Formative Assessment Strategies to Help with Classroom Management

Link to show: www.coolcatteacher.com/e250
Date: Friday, February 16, 2018

Vicki: Today we’re talking with Mike Roberts @BaldRoberts, eighth grade English teacher in Salt Lake City, Utah, and author of Hacking Classroom Management: 10 Ideas to Help You Become the Type of Teacher They Make Movies About.

Now, Mike, you have five ideas for us today, to do formative assessments. But these are also strategies that help with classroom management.

So give us the first one and help us understand how great formative assessment can help us better manage our classroom.

Mike: Yeah, like anything else in our classroom, I think we have to take a variety of approaches in how we do our formative assessments.

I think a lot of us fall back on the “thumbs up, thumbs down” or the “fist to five” concept, which — you know — I think is good.

But I think the more engaged you can get your students in that process — and really get them to think about the learning rather than just respond to it — I think that helps keep classroom management a lot more interactive for the student and a lot more engaging for them throughout the class.

Vicki: Yeah. What’s the first example?

Mike: First example. Real easy one. I call them High-Five Hands.

Formative Assessment Idea #1: High-Five Hands

On their way out the door, I just have some hands up on my door. And this is a good one for self-assessment. I think a lot of times, teachers don’t think self-assessment can play a role in formative assessment.

I will sometimes ask students to critique themselves with their effort today. Or we’ll have a learning target for the day, and I’ll say, “OK. Assess how you did on that learning target today.”

There’s a green hand, a yellow hand, and a red hand. They’ll just real informally as they walk out, just high-five that on the way out.

You could also use emojis if you want to. Put some big old emoji faces up there.

And I also sometimes use this as a prior knowledge assessment as they’re walking out. If we’re going to be talking about irony the next day in my class, I’ll say, “OK. Tomorrow, we’re going to be talking about irony. Slap your hand up there, and let me know what your thoughts are on how you feel about irony.”

That way, when they come into class the next day, I have an idea of where the conversation should be going, if I’ve seen a lot of kids slap the red hand, I know, “Ok, I’ve got to start this ‘down low’.” If a lot of kids have already slapped the green hand, though, I know that they may have some background on it.

Vicki: Oh, fantastic. Love it!

OK, what’s your second?

Mike: That first one was what I call a One Minute Assessment. And now I’m going to go into a couple of Five Minute Assessments. These are assessments that you can do either as an exit ticket, an entry ticket, or sometimes just in the middle of class.

I’m a big fan of summarizing and using literacy in the classroom.

So two of my favorites are Twitter Summary, where students have to summarize what they’ve learned in — usually 140 — but now it’s 280 characters.

Formative Assessment Idea #2: Twitter Summary

And I require them to include a hashtag or two in there. This is where you really find out which kids get it, and which kids don’t. Those kids who are nailing their hashtags? It is unbelievable how cool it is when you see that kid really think through what they’ve learned and come up with this hashtag that just hits it right on the nail.

Vicki: Can you give me an example of what that would say with a hashtag, and how you would know?

Mike: Yeah! So we did one on Lord of the Flies a couple years ago. This kid was really going through. I had them summarize, I think it was Chapter 11. It’s a chapter where a big rock falls on a kid. And their hashtag was #watchforfallingrocks.

Vicki: Ohhhh. Cool!

Mike: Yeah, so it was really cool to see them think through it. They didn’t just go through it, they tied something from their life into the reading. It was really cool to see something like that play out.

Formative Assessment Idea #3: Haiku Review

The other one I really like for the Five Minute Assessments is called a Haiku Review, where students summarize or review the learning target for the day in a Haiku format — so 5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables.

And a lot of you are like, “I know. My students would not do that.”

Vicki: (laughs)

Mike: They will, I promise.

Vicki: (laughs)

Mike: And it’s really fun to see them counting out syllables. You see them patting their hand or tapping their jaw. And again, you get these kids who might be quiet or might not be that engaged. Here’s your chance to kind of share some of that creativity.

In both of these Five Minute Assessments, I like to always have them present it as well, so you might want to add a little five-minutes extra onto the back end of both of those.

Vicki: Awesome! OK, what’s our fourth?

Mike: Then we go into what I call Fifteen Minute Assessments.

A big part of classroom management, I think, stems from the fact that students just sit all day long.

They sit in their one class, they come to the next class, they sit in that class. They get a little break here and there, but there’s just a lot of sitting.

So I’m a big fan of incorporating a lot of movement into my classroom management approach.

So for these quick assessments, I do what’s called a Walk and Talk.

Formative Assessment Idea #4: Walk and Talk

Rather than sitting up and having a lecture or having a discussion where they’re in small groups and things like that, we will leave the classroom. We’ll go walk around the neighborhood.

I will give them a question, and they will pair up. We’ll have a big old line on the sidewalk, and we’ll start walking. You know, you set this up with, “Here are the requirements, and here are the parameters, and are are the expectations.” So they know all this. Then I ask that question, and they start walking and discussing this.

That is a great formative assessment, because I’m just kind of hanging out in the middle, walking up and down, and all I’m really listening for with each question are a couple keywords. If they’re saying those keywords, then I’m feeling pretty confident that they’re getting this concept.

Walk and Talks are great because it gets them out and moving. Any time you can leave the classroom, it’s a fun thing for kids. They really get excited about it.

If you’re not quite ready to leave your classroom, another one that I would throw in there would be what I call Musical Chairs.

Musical Chairs

Again, they’re in their small groups, but they’ll discuss a question and then I’ll play music for about 15-20 seconds while they walk around randomly. When the music stops, they sit down and then discuss the next question.

And again, my role as the teacher in that, I’m just listening for those keywords, seeing which kids are really engaged, seeing which kids are passionate about it, which questions I missed the target on. Sometimes I’ll ask a question, and it will just be super quiet. That one falls on me.

And then the last one is what I call a Vocab Story.

Formative Assessment Idea #5: Vocab Story

Again, this one incorporates a little more literacy into it. You’re going through, you’re throwing out some vocab words and key concepts. And I’ll just write five or six up on the board.

I’ll say, “Alright. I need you to write me a story incorporating these words into your story.”

So for 10-15 minutes, they’ll just write a story about whatever they want. Again, you really get to see which kids get it, by how they are using those words and how they incorporate those words into their everyday lives, or something we’re doing in school, how they manipulate the words.

You get a really good understanding of “Are they getting that concept?” without smacking them on the summative assessment.

Like I said earlier, I think there are a lot of different ways that we teach, and I think that our formative assessments should do something in those same line.

You give that active kid the chance to move, you give that quiet kid that chance to show their artistic talent,ad you’re just trying to throw out as many different option as possible.

Vicki: So, Mike, what’s one thing you wish that every teacher understood about doing formative assessment right?

Mike: Whoooh! That’s a GOOD question!

That there is no “one size fits all.” It’s a lot like teaching.

Like I said, the “thumbs up, thumbs down” — I think a lot of us fall back on that. But I think that every time I’ve done one of those, I think it’s like 85% of them give a thumbs up.

And as much as I’d like to think I’m that great of a teacher, I don’t think that 85% of these kids have this mastered.

I think that’s just the easy approach. And I think a lot of us like to say, “Look, I did a formative assessment, and they said they were understanding it,” rather than letting them SHOW you that they understand it.

Rather than taking a passive role in the process, let your students take an active role in the formative assessment process.

Vicki: And I totally agree with that, because when my formative assessment really started informing my teaching, is when I was teaching binary numbers.

I used to say, “Give me a thumbs up, thumbs down.” The kids would say, “Yeah, I get it or I don’t.” And I would quickly understand that they totally did not understand.

They just wanted to move ahead. (laughs)

They just didn’t want to do it anymore, because they thought it was too hard!

But when I actually started saying, “OK, let’s do some problems, and let’s do a quick formative assessment,” so I actually know what their answer is… Then, it’s like, “OK, Now we’re really getting somewhere.”

These are some great tips.

And I love linking together formative assessment with a form of classroom management, because they really do go together. If you do a formative assessment and your kids aren’t engaged in the formative assessment, then you really need to look at everything, don’t you?


Mike: Yeah, absolutely.

And one of the things about the book is I know a lot of schools differ in how much technology they have, so I tried to incorporate ideas that anybody can use. Regardless of whether you’re a kindergarten teacher or a 12th grade teacher, whether you have tons of technology or limited technology. These are just good strategies to help get you kids engaged in what’s going on.

Vicki: So, remarkable teachers, remember… we need to be checking for understanding –pretty often! Every 15-20 minutes at least, in our class periods. That’s 2-3 times per class period if you have a 50-minute class period like I do.

So let’s do this. Let’s be remarkable. Let’s be amazing teachers.


Contact us about the show: https://www.coolcatteacher.com/contact/

Transcribed by Kymberli Mulford kymberlimulford@gmail.com

Bio as submitted

Mike Roberts has taught middle-school English for the past twenty years. In that time, he has received numerous awards, including the 2014 Utah English Teacher of the Year. Beyond the classroom, he has been a featured speaker at dozens of state, regional, and national conferences. He has served on many educational committees, is an adjunct education professor, and has had his work published numerous times. His latest book, Hacking Classroom Management – How to be the Type of Teacher They Make Movies About, is scheduled to be released in December of 2017. Mike loves sharing his ideas with others, and he still is a bit surprised when people actually show up to hear him speak. When he's not teaching or presenting, Mike can usually be found running ultra-marathons in the mountains. And even after all these years, he's still not sure which takes more energy…a week with 8th graders or running a 100 mile race! You can follow Mike on Twitter @baldroberts

Twitter: @BaldRoberts

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored podcast episode.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” This company has no impact on the editorial content of the show.

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Brittani February 10, 2018 - 10:06 pm

I really loved how all of the different formative assessments were broken down. These are techniques that I would absolutely love to share with my future students. I think that the idea to create a story with specific vocabulary words, can really boost critical and creative thinking skills which is great!! I am new to twitter and using it as a resource to respond for class discussions and it is still something I’m not used to. Overall, All of the ideas listed are greats way for students to release energy in a productive way! Loved reading this blog!

Vicki Davis February 14, 2018 - 7:56 am

Glad it is helpful, Brittani! I loved these ideas as well.


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