Practice Sheet

Evaluating the knowledge adhered
To introduce educators and non-educators to some common Formative Assessment Strategies

5-15 minutes | For educators

Table of Contents

Aim: To introduce educators and non-educators to some common Formative Assessment Strategies that can be used within your workshops within BIBLIODOS or any other material for learning a second and/ or foreign language. The idea that Assessment can be used for Learning (AFL) also known as Formative Assessment (FA) is not new but it goes back to 1967 when it was first addressed by Scriven. The main idea is that we do not use the Assessment to give grades or to categorise or promote students in another grade/level but to help them with their learning as it is (on) going. So, the educator in this way can receive some formal or informal data that will help develop the next steps within the learning process.

Key Words: Formative Assessment, Assessment for Learning, Formative Strategies.

Prior Knowledge: Although strictly speaking students should not have any specific prior knowledge, because most of these strategies require knowledge of writing they could be undertaken in a common language of the educator and the students (beyond the one they are trying to learn).


In BIBLIODOS there is an attempt to introduce non or small readers to the European Classic literature whilst promoting language learning simultaneously to familiarising with cultural heritage. In other words, BILBIODOS project is combining Language Learning with discovering European Heritage by combining literature and artistic work. Through BIBLIODOS you can see how stories from Europe’s Literary Heritage have been adapted to the basic principles of the A1.1, A1.1, A1 language level acquisition. In addition, some rich Pedagogical Dossiers have been developed within BIBLIODOS project, one for each e-book presented which include in the end, fruitful activities. The Formative Strategies suggested here can be given, in the end of the Activities suggested in those ped. Dossiers. These strategies can also be given at any point the educator feels he wants to check the progress of the students in order to have a clearer picture of the milestones achieved (or not) and plan the next steps. It is different to Summative Assessment which usually involves (as its name suggest) strategies to sum-up the knowledge, uses quantitative methods of assessing and it usually aims in making final conclusions about the learning.

Formative Assessment in a Foreign Language environment

It is considered as vital to know from the very beginning the motivation of each of your students in learning the foreign language. This will be a key parameter for later on, as you can structure (or alter already existing) activities based on their interests/ motivations (Barbosa and Beserra, 2015).

More specific suggestions are given by Fishell et al (2011) in the framework of several languages when taught as foreign languages. It is suggested that far and foremost learning targets should be clear in a student friendly language and the setting of achievable goals is paramount. The provision of constructive feedback individually and in class should be set a as a necessity. The students should also be given several attempts to meet the learning goals set. Grades on the other hand are not a priority in this setting, zeros should not be given at this point and of course if grades are given, they should not be as a punishment. The scoring can be something like:

  • needs more practice to meet target
  • needs a little more practice to meet target
  • met the target
  • above the target

Specific Strategies

  • Thumbs up/Thumbs down: After practicing a skill, ask students how they feel they are doing by showing thumbs up or thumbs down. Alternative: Students show a scale of 1-5 on their hand.
  • Ticket out the door (Exit Slip): Determine if the lesson was successful by asking students to complete a quick question on their way out the door.
  • Stop/Go: Give each student a card with stop sign on one side and a go sign on the other. As students are learning a new concept, they can flip the card to the stop sign when they need more explanation.
  • Whiteboards: Students practice writing on a small whiteboard and then hold up their boards and compare their answers with the teacher’s answer. Works great for spelling, vocabulary, verb conjugation, etc. Alternative : Students practice in pairs with flashcards.
  • Scale of 1-4: The teacher evaluates a performance task (like a conversation) on a scale of 1-4. 4= You got it ! 3= Almost there. 2= Needs work. 1= Needs a lot of work.
  • Four Corners: The teacher displays a question and 4 choices. Students choose an answer by going to different corners of the room. This will help the teacher determine which concepts are the most difficult for the class.
  • Sequence Cards: Give students cut up sentences and have them try to put all of the
    words in sentences that make sense. This activity can be done individually or in pairs.
  • Mini-Quizzes: Give students multiple quizzes in the same format as the test, so they can check their understanding.
  • Snowball Fight: Have each student write a question or action statement on a piece of paper. Then, they all need to ball them up and on the count of three throw them at each other. When the « fight » is over, each student needs to pick up a piece of paper from the ground and either answer the question or complete the action statement written. Link this
    task to your current learning target to give students a fun way to review classroom
  • Musical Chairs: Using whiteboards, have students sit in a circle. Then, ask students a question or have them translate a word. Play some music in the background, and as soon as students have the answer, they need to hold their boards in the air. If they have the incorrect response, they need to fix it and hold up their board again. The last person to have the correct response loses a spot in the circle, and the circle slowly closes in with each round.

    IWLA Conference 2011 – Fishell, Lawrence, & Nelson : Source p. 6 

Above we can see some indicative strategies useful when teaching almost any language. It is up to you and your audiences which ones to use. Some of them might seem childish and probably disregarded by your audience.

Desirable Outcome

At the end of this practice sheet, you should be able to:

  • Realise the difference between Formative and Summative Assessment
  • Know the benefits of using Formative Assessment
  • Implement main strategies of Formative Assessment in a Foreign Language framework


Additional Resources

Although there are some differences between Formative Assessment in a local language and the way it can be used in the Foreign language framework some much sited books which can give you ideas on strategies include: