Formative Lexicon


This is a partial list of formative strategies to use before, during, and after instruction. Each one provides evidence of learning and guidance on next steps in teaching and learning. Choose those that meet your purpose: reteach, provide additional support, regroup, etc. A full lexicon can be found in “What Teachers Really Need to Know About Formative Assessment”.

A closure activity where students write: 3 key terms from what they have just learned, 2 questions they still have, and 1 way they can apply it. Variations include 3 facts, 2 concepts, 1 question.

A-B-C Summary
Using the alphabet or vocabulary words from the lesson, students think of a word starting with that letter (or it could include the letter) that makes a connection to instruction and summarizes the topic. Correct misunderstandings and Consolidate into a class summary sheet.

Bump in the Road
Students write down an area of confusion or a problem they are having with the topic. They get into small groups to share their “bumps” and seek clarification.

Grouping / Sequencing
Information is presented to learners in order: chronological, sequential, General-to-Specific, Part-to-Whole, Spiral, Step-by-Step.

Students take keywords and arrange them to form a sequence or continuum based on a variety of criteria. For example, “apple, peach, grapes, cantaloupe”. Can be arranged by size, type, color, etc.

Empty Outlines
Students are provided with a partially completed outline of a topic and are required to fill in the missing components. Can be combined with think-pair-share and/or to guide reinforcement of key ideas.

Entrance Slips/Exit Slips
To begin or end a class, they are generally responses to questions about learning such as “What’s the relationship between A and B, or What’s confusing about…”

Students indicate their degree of understanding by holding up no fingers indicating lack of understanding through 5 fingers indicating they completely understand the idea. To encourage honest answers, do this with eyes closed.

The Gallery Method/Graffiti Wall
The Gallery method can be used for generating ideas and problem solving. Post large paper around the room with problems/questions. Individuals can write directly on the sheets or use post-its. Ideas can be pooled, sorted, classified.

Grab Bag
During or at the end of a lesson, students draw an object from a bag then explain or illustrate how the object is related to what they have learned.

Graphic Organizer
Graphic organizers are visual frameworks to help a learner make connections between concepts. They can be used before learning to establish a baseline, during learning to make meaning from new information or during a review to remind students of the number and variety of components they should be remembering. They may look like bubbles, trees, brackets, tables, flow charts, timelines, problem solving, T-chart, spider, sequence, continuum, cycles, etc.

Inverted Pyramid
A writing/organizing tool in which the most important information is described first, followed by the next most important information, and closing with the least important information.

Jumbled Summary
Random words from instruction are presented verbally or in writing. Students put these key words and phrases into a logical sequence.

Layman’s Translation/Martian News
Students write a simplified summary of what they have just learned or explain what they have just learned to a Martian who has never heard of it before.

Student teams are given sequential ideas that can be put in order. Each student places themselves where they believe their concept belongs in the line-up. With multiple teams, sequences can be compared and discussed.

Muddiest Point
Students are asked to name or describe the concept they understand the least (their muddiest point). Can be used during or after instruction. Points can be read aloud or kept for teacher’s reference and class review.

Post-Test Review
After a test or quiz students are asked to * the most difficult or challenging question. For those that receive the most *s, the teacher uses prompts, reminders, or examples (but not answers) to review. Students may change their responses after the review.

Pros and Cons
Students generate lists of arguments for or against certain ideas. Then rank order them, evaluate the short list, and keep or eliminate out based on information available.


Q & A Mix-up
Students write a review question on one colored index card and the answer to it on a different color card. The answer cards are redistributed. One volunteer reads their question. A student who thinks they have the answer raises their card and shares the answer. They can “phone a friends” for help. If they are correct they then ask their question.

In pairs or small groups, students have a short period to share all they know by illustrating it with symbols or drawings.

Share-Pair Circles
Divide class into two equal groups and each group forms a circle. The inner circle faces outward and the outer circle faces inward, to form pairs of facing students. In response to teacher prompts (could be concept, question, controversy), each pair discusses their ideas, then one of the circles rotates to create new pairs. Repeat until the original pairs are again facing each other.

Stars and Wishes
Students write 2 things they especially liked, are doing well at, or significant learning. Then write 1 wish for something they want more of or are confused about.

Nutshelling: A form of summary that involves asking a student to examine their learning and synthesize a brief statement that captures the main point/essence of all that has been written or stated to that point.
Paraphrasing: Students restate important information into their own words.

Three Corners
Label three areas of the room with “Disagree, Agree, Unsure.” (Or other relevant groupings) Read a statement and have students go to the corner representing their point of view. All students sharing a similar point of view work together to collect evidence and present an argument supporting their beliefs. This can also be done to assess level of knowledge before instruction or as a closure to instruction.

Values Continuum
Problems and positions are presented to students who line-up in a continuous scale from strongly agree to strongly disagree. Students at various points on the continuum share and support their beliefs.