5 Formative Assessment Activities for the Classroom

Now that you’ve learned what formative assessment is, why you should use formative assessment in your classroom, and six practical tips, it’s time to take what you’ve learned and apply it to your class.

These five formative assessment activities can be used across content areas to quickly gather information in regards to how well your students are mastering content or concepts.

Shrinking Summary

Use this activity to assess individual students’ understanding of the lesson or a particular focus skill. Give your students approximately 3 minutes to write a summary of the day’s learning/lesson.

Next, ask them to highlight or circle 10 words or phrases that best represent the learning. (If a student doesn’t have that many, ask them to choose 5 or so.)

Lastly, students take those chosen words and write a one sentence summary using the words.

3-2-1 Summarizer

This activity also gauges individual students’ understanding of the lesson or a particular focus skill. 

Give each student an index card or ½ sheet of paper, or use our 3-2-1 summarizer sheet.

Ask students to write 3 things they learned.

Ask students to write 2 things they found interesting.

Ask students to write 1 question they still have about the lesson or topic.


Use the fishbowl activity to evaluate your classroom’s understanding of the lesson and find out what further explanation is needed.

Give each student an index card or ½ sheet of paper. Each student writes a question about the lesson or topic. It might be something to which they do or do not know the answer. (No names are added.) 

Put all questions into a container, such as a fish bowl. Have your students’ pair up and give each pair two questions. Pairs then discuss possible answers and write an answer on the back. (They may leave it blank if they do not know an answer.)

Once completed, all papers go back in the container. Pull as many index cards as time permits. Read the question and answer. Students respond with a thumbs up or down. Have your class decide on the correct answer and tell them if a correct answer isn’t on the card. 


This activity evaluates students’ (individuals and whole group) understanding of the lesson and also helps you discover what further explanation is needed. 

  • Think – tell students to ponder a question or look for an example of a given skill in their writing.
  • Pair students up – students discuss their answer or share their writing.During this step students may wish to revise or alter their original idea or revise their writing with the skill in mind.
  • Share – a few students are called upon to share with the rest of the class.

(Assessment occurs as you walk around listening to the discussions as well as during the sharing portion. It is important to circulate and hold students accountable for their discussions.)

Dry Erase Boards 

Use this activity for any number of skill checks and to assess individual students’ understanding of the lesson or a particular focus skill. For example, tell students a simple sentence to write on their boards, e.g. “The children run. 

Then direct your students to revise the sentence using any grammar skill you would like to assess.

Examples: Revise by adding an adjective or adverb. Revise by changing run to a stronger verb. Change the word children to a noun with a regular plural. Change the word children and use proper nouns instead. Change children to a pronoun. Expand the sentence and make it compound. Use a simile to explain how fast the children run.

You can quickly check around the classroom to note who has mastered the skill and who has not.