20 Quick Formative Assessments You Can Use TODAY

We are always looking for a better glimpse inside our students brains. While we are never going to figure out the mysteries of the pre-teen or kindergarten mind, there are some tools to help us understand where they are in their learning journey.

Below are 20 simple, quick, effective ways to check on your students and get some real information to plan instruction.

As a bonus, kids get in on their own learning and goal setting!



  1. Outcome Sentences – Use when you want to prompt a student to respond in a specific way (I learned…, I wondered…, etc.).
  2. Conga Line – a great way to share ideas with different partners; two lines of students face each other, one line moves with same question or a new one.
  3. Inner/Outer Circle – same as Conga Line except with circles, better for limited spaces
  4. Headlines – after a lesson or lesson segment, have the student write a headline for an article about it. Distills lessons to main ideas and concepts.
  5. PMI: Plus, Minus, Interesting – a matrix graphic organizer to chart class or individual thoughts
  6. Pair-Share – activates prior knowledge or shares learned concepts with partners, can be timed
  7. Paired-Squared – take two Pair-Share partners and share with another group of two
  8. Jigsaw/Experts in Residence – each group becomes an expert on a certain part of the lesson, then debriefs the whole group
  9. Modified Jigsaw/EiR – each group gets a topic within the whole, then has to compile everything they can on that one topic within the whole lesson
  10. Affirmations – turn to a partners and give a positive statement, “I knew that!” or “Now I know!”
  11. 3-2-1 – good closer: three points to remember, two things you liked, one question you still have. –MY FAVORITE!!!
  12. Quick Write/Draw — Given a topic, students write and/or draw freely during a timed period
  13. Gallery Walk – stations with information, participants can write on post-its or directly on the poster with thoughts, comments, or questions
  14. Think-Write-Share – Same as pair-share, but gives students more time to organize their thoughts
  15. Red Card/Green Card – Using red, yellow, and green cards, students can indicate their understanding of the presented material as it happens. (When presenting a particularly challenging technique or concept, I use these cards at each table for students to let me know if they are understanding. They can use them on their own at any time, or I might stop after a key point and ask them to use a card to represent their level or understanding.)
  16. Beach Ball – Concepts are written on a beach ball. As a student catches it, they give a thought or clarify the concept closest to one of their thumbs
  17. Admit/Exit tickets –Students demonstrate understanding in an appropriate way immediately upon entering or before exiting the room. “You exit ticket today is to write the title of your piece on the back.” Or “Your admit ticket to our lesson today is to list three warm colors on the notecard at your table.”
  18. SOS— Students write a quick Statement, an Opinion based on the statement, and finally a Supporting piece of factual evidence.
  19. Poll the Class— Use a simple show of hands, white boards, or even a clicker program, poll the class on foundational knowledge, opinions, or even where they are in their learning.
  20. Grade Yourself— Have students give themselves an in-progress grade, then explain why their work is earning that grade. Give them explicit standards and relevant vocab to use in their explanation.

These ideas are a great start to conducting formative assessments in your classroom. If you’re looking for more in-depth information, including how to create and implement a formative assessment plan, we’ve got you covered in the Formative Assessment Strategies PRO Learning Pack!

In addition, students in the Assessment in Art Education course spend time learning how continuous and ongoing formative assessment can drive their instruction.

Is ‘Formative Assessment’ a buzzword at your school?

Name a few other formative assessments you’ve done to quickly check for understanding in the art room. We can’t wait to hear your ideas! 

Sarah Dougherty


My name is Sarah Dougherty, and I teach elementary art in a large urban district in central Iowa. I love working with our diverse population of K-5 students to bring art to their homes, communities, and everyday lives.


  • Christina Papanikolaou Erb

    I will make something called a “reflection sheet”. They have to answer questions based on the lesson and also I have them explain why they chose the colors, shapes, etc. in their work. It gives me an idea what they are thinking and of course if they grasped any of the concepts we covered during class time. I make the sheets simple so that all students can succeed.

    • Excellent idea! Writing frames help so much to focus student thoughts. Their thinking, and the evidence of their thinking, will be so much clearer when we ask the specific questions rather than, “tell me about your art.”

    • Vicky Siegel

      I just started something like that, too, Christina. On their “grade sheet” I have been typing unfinished statements, like where in your project did you show the warm colors.” Or “color in the boxes with cool colors,” etc. I can quickly assess if they know the concepts, since sometimes if we are learning warm and cool colors, for example, they go to a warm table and a cool table. This way they have to decipher on their own on the written grade sheet.

      • Christina Papanikolaou Erb

        I like that idea…coloring in the boxes to quickly assess the concepts.

      • Vicky, I think the really important parts there are that it is simple and streamlined and independent. Often teachers will say they can tell whether or not their students have learned the concepts by looking at their art. Most of the time that art is teacher supported (as it should be!) and isn’t a fully accurate measure of learning. Your plan seems fast and easy to administer and assess!

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  • Cindy Phillippi

    Thanks for these ideas. I do like how all the ideas can be used in different circumstances. I especially like the reflection sheet and grade sheet ideas, and how writing frames will be used to clarify both for student and teacher.

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  • miss miller

    I am currently struggling with formative assessment and looking for an advice!! I am confident and comfortable try new ways of assessing progress and checking for understanding in the classroom however this is the first yr in my new position and the district requires currently through the use of Skyward that all grades/assignments be entered 50% formative & 50% summative for all of my 6-8th graders. As teachers we are always assessing and monitoring progress of students as a class and as individuals I have however never needed to specifically design and enter these types of assessments in a grading system rather than using them to inform my practice and assist students. I only see 6th grade however for 40 mins. once a week (150 students total) so finding ways so offer formative work that can be entered to total half their grade and be an accurate reflection of their performance and progress in proving very difficult let alone managing to track and enter 150 grades weekly through activities which eat into our ever limited work time. We are a 1:1 IPAD model school so it has proved much easier for other classes such as 7/8 which I see everyday for 40 mins and they bring IPADS to class. Any helpful suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

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