Formative assessment strategies for K-5 classrooms

The American education system has many different methods of assessment in place, from standardized tests to summative and formative assessments. While classroom assessment was traditionally used to measure student progress and performance up to a certain point, more recent strategies have educators drawing on the information taken from formative assessments and using that data to adjust their teaching approach.

In K-5 classrooms, formative evaluation can be useful because it guides teachers’ decisions about future instruction. In this way, educators can make sure students are truly understanding and internalizing what they are learning so this knowledge can be carried through to higher grades and more challenging courses. Have you been thinking about using formative assessment in your classroom? Here are some popular strategies:

Intelligent adaptive learning systems

When teachers have a large classroom of students to teach, it may be impossible for them to spend time individually assessing each student throughout the day. In K-5 classrooms and beyond, many educators are incorporating the use of intelligent adaptive learning systems into their curricula in order to gather the formative assessment data they need to individualize learning. Intelligent adaptive learning systems gather information about students’ strengths and weaknesses while they are learning, without interrupting instruction. The program can then adapt its approach to optimize student learning. In the meantime, teachers can use the data derived from intelligent adaptive learning systems to inform their decision making.


Another method of introducing formative assessment into curricula is to ask students to evaluate themselves as they learn. Although it may be difficult to get students to do this unprompted, teachers can create opportunities for self-assessment by asking students to stop and reflect on what they have learned and to write about it. This will not only help students derive meaning from their learning experiences, but will also prompt them to use content-specific language as they comment on the course material. Teachers can use the information taken from these self-assessments to get an idea of how students perceive their learning, and if there are any areas that could benefit from further explanation.


K-5 classrooms often contain a great deal of small group work as it gives students a chance to collaborate with their peers. These instances can also be turned into opportunities for formative assessment. Discussion not only provides clues to educators about whether or not students are understanding basic concepts, it also allows students to stretch the breadth and depth of their knowledge. Explaining what they have learned to their peers and discussing it helps them demonstrate their understanding and consider other points of view. Teachers can listen in on and participate in these discussions to gather information that they can then apply to their instruction.

What formative assessment strategies work well in your classroom? Share your thoughts with us!