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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! 

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.

Sarah Dougherty


Sarah Dougherty, a visual arts curriculum coordinator, is a former AOEU Writer and elementary school art educator. She loves working with diverse populations to bring art into students’ homes, communities, and everyday lives.