Formative is the formative assessment tool you crave

Formative assessment is critical to good teaching. Digital tools give us new, faster, ways to see what our students know and are able to do. Some of those tools are more trouble than they are worth, but Formative is fabulous.

I'm an English teacher, so the major way I use Formative is with readings of articles and short stories. Within a few minutes I can upload a text, add my questions, and assign it to a class. Then, in just a few moments, my students can sign in with their district Google accounts, access their reading and get started. The beautiful part is that I see their responses in real time. For multiple choice questions I know right away if the student was correct or not. For short answer questions I can watch the answers come in, send feedback, and watch students revise. It's amazing. Below is a time lapse video I made of the process.


Some advice if you want to use this. Because my students read a lot of complex texts, and we will read them multiple times, I often use Formative for the first read. I structure my questions specifically to support comprehension. I ask easy questions in the beginning of the text just to make sure my students are comprehending the basics of the plot or topic. That way, when I see a student get an answer incorrect at the beginning of the text I can provide immediate support. Later in the text I begin to ask for short answer responses that build on what they have read already. I can display the screen of written answers to the class without names and give global feedback about how to improve responses. Students can revise immediately. I can also send feedback privately.

Using Formative to embed questions right into the text supports student comprehension and gives me a very immediate sense of how my students are doing with the text. You can also add content to a task in the form of text, video, or image. Question types include a "show your work" drawn response, and I've heard they are partnering with Desmos to support some pretty amazing Math options. My other favorite feature is the share code. With one link I can send my colleagues a copy of any task I make in Formative. When they click the link they get their own copy. It's a great way to help someone get started with Formative.

Formative has been around now for several years and I expect they will continue to offer a robust free tool for teachers even as they add more sophisticated options for tracking student progress in their pro version. This is a tool worth using. It is worth your time.