It isn't often that I post here on subjects that aren't specific to Maths teaching; my subject is generally what gets me out of bed in the morning. However I was having a conversation with my trainee today about formative assessment, different strategies to use and different ways to manage the outcome and so I thought I would share some of the more interesting ones I have come across (either used, seen used, or a variant on one of those) over the years - I am striving for something a bit more interesting than just using mini-whiteboards (although I do use these all the time).
1) Lolly sticks - Now I know a lot of teachers use lolly sticks and most who use them have now got as far as having a different pot or section of the pot to put used ones back in, but how about having three separate pots to put them back in? One red, one amber, and one green depending on whether you think, based on the pupils input, whether they will need immediate attention in the activity that follows, or checking on after a few minutes, or are safe to proceed. Then when independent or group work starts, you just pick up your red pot lolly sticks and visit those pupils, then the amber and so on. Having the lolly sticks with you to hand also helps jog the memory of what they said or did that set off your 'in trouble' sensors in the first place!
2) Multichoice wall - Have a section of the wall where a multi-choice question is posed (give at least three options, and make one option a classic mistake or one that isn't obviously wrong would be my advice). Give pupils a post-it note, get them to write their name on it and stick it where they think on the wall. This again can let you know as a class how well pupils have understood, and will give you the names of the people who are very wrong, making common errors etc. This can also be an Always, Sometimes Never wall if the question is a good question for those sorts of responses. What can be nice then is to re-seat based on their response (either grouping people with the same response together for intervention, or mixing up one or two from each response for peer support) if the class can handle it quickly; if not why not try...
3) Move to the answer - Similar to above, but this time instead of a single wall, you have three or four possible answers in areas removed from each other around the room, and then pupils move to whichever answer they think in correct. This can be easier to do re-seating as pupils are already out of their seats collectively, so pairing them up (again either same response together for teacher intervention, or different responses for peer support) should be more straightforwad.
4) Red, Amber, Green sheets - A bit more work admittedly, but having my questions cut up into three sheets at three confidence levels (Red - I am struggling, Amber - I am OK but will need reassurance I am doing it right, Green - I am confident so at some point just come and checkwhat I am doing is right) and allow pupils to choose. I have seen this done with differet colours but actually my preference is for different sizes, and to make them smaller as they get harder. This battles the natural propensity for some pupils to take what they see is the easiest work (i.e. the red sheet) as it is clear that there is more to do on the red (the logic being that there is more to do but it is easier to do it, with green there is less but doing it involves more thinking and understanding). Of course then my interevention can be based around those pupils who have chosen the largest sheet, with some early checks on the ambers and then some later checks on the green (unless there is someone whom I don't think should be on green!).
5) Post-it head - This one is like the game we used to play when we were younger, where people would write the name of a famous person on a card and stick it on someone else's head, with the other person having to guess the word stuck to their own head. As well as being a great activity for key words in a topic when played in the traditional sense, it can also be used for formative assessment by pupils writing (discreetly) a RAG rating on their own confidence onto a post-it note and then sticking them to their own heads. I find the fun element to it can overcome the barriers some pupils have in admitting their own vulnerabilities, provided they don't write too large. If you don't fancy their heads (particularly if anyone in the class happens to be allergic to the glue used in post-it notes) then sticking it on their book or the end of their table can be nice; some pupils don't like having their planner blazing red for the whole class to see (or don't want to seem immodest by having a big green patch) and this can be a slightly discreeter alternative.
6) Heads down, Thumbs up (or middle, or down) - Another take on a classic game; everybody must have played heads down thumbs up at school, and gotten that secret thrill when the person you had a crush on turned out to be the one that had pinched your thumbs (or was that just me?) No such thrill this time I am afraid, but again I find that heads down first creates a bit more fun about the using thumbs to give feedback, and also reassures those people who are not confident in admitting their vulnerability a bit of anonymity. I normally do this by pinching thumbs (gently, no matter what the temptation is to do otherwise with certain pupils) to let them know I have noticed their feedback; but occasionally I will just scan the room and then tell them thumbs down, heads up.
So there we have some of my favourite alternative formative assessment strategies; feel free to take, adapt or if you have the time (and would be really great) share some of your own through the comments.
P.S don't forget the mini-whiteboards, they really are great too!