Save time and streamline your planning with LearnZillion Lesson Plans

Hear from LearnZillion’s own Eric Westendorf (CEO) and Boaz Munro (Content Lead) about how the site’s newest feature can help math teachers ensure their students master the essential standards across grades 3-8.

Backwards mapping from PARCC and SBAC math items to formative assessments

Learn how to prepare for Common Core math formative assessments.

Millions of educators across the country are crafting formative assessments to monitor student misconception and progress.

To support you, we asked Skip Fennell, a past president of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, to share his perspective on how to effectively implement formative assessments in the classroom. Skip is the current Project Director for Elementary Mathematics Specialists and Teacher Leaders Project and the Stanley Bowlsbey Professor of Education and Graduate and Professional Studies at McDaniel College.

In the webinar, Skip addresses the the keys to creating strong formative assessments, common pitfalls, implementation techniques, places to find resources, questions from the audience, and more.

He begins with a great quote: “Observation, discussion, and interviews serve better than paper-pencil tests in evaluating a pupil’s ability to understand the principles he/she uses” (Sueltz, Boynton, and Sauble, 1946, p. 145), and it only gets better from there. Since we ran out of time to answer all the questions from our audience, Skip kindly agreed to share his thoughts on a few more, below:

1. Where can teachers go to find strong examples of formative assessments?

2. Where can I find examples of teachers using formative assessments? Could you point us to some online resources?

I would check out some of the YouTube videos from Dylan William.  I am sure there are others AND frankly I have often just looked at videos of teachers teaching and asked my students to spot ACTUAL uses of formative assessment strategies AND when might they have say asked to do an interview or when a response ‘begged’ for a ‘Show Me’ OR what would you use as a Hinge Question for this lesson, etc.

3. What specific resources should we checkout on

Go to the presentations tab and check out the NCTM regional presentations for Baltimore and Louisville – about the Pathways AND feel free to see what else we have been up to!

4. What is a step-by-step process in creating formative assessments?

I am not sure I would suggest a step-by-step process for creating formative assessments.  I would want teachers to be comfortable using a ‘menu’ of formative assessments (perhaps the Pathways presented yesterday) and then as they plan a lesson consider how they might use one of more of these assessments (what a great discussion for a grade level learning community!) and then implement them ALL the while recognizing that formative assessment, to some extent, is VERY serendipitous – in the middle of a learning you may want someone to ‘Show Me’ or need to alter the proposed Hinge Question, etc.  Hope this gets at the issue.  To me, this is all about building confidence and comfort in using assessment to monitor instruction.

5. Where can I find Hinge Questions aligned to the common core standards?

I see Hinge Questions being integral to specific lessons so I would not see a one-size (one question) fits this lesson here.  Such questions are the responsibility of the teacher responsible for the lesson.  NOW, that I preached a bit – I could see a ‘bank’ of possible questions for standards which could/should then be adapted for lessons planned by a teacher.  I KNOW OF NO SUCH SET OF QUESTIONS. [Readers: Do you?  If so, please share them in the comments section.]

6. Do you have any tips for using Hinge Questions in a flipped classroom?

What a great question and I have been thinking about this.  I would use the Hinge Questions IN THE CLASSROOM as a way to gauge what was done at home/on line wherever and then plan accordingly.

7. How can we convert the student performance on our formative assessments into success on high stakes tests?

Another great question.  The rationale for the SMARTER/PARCC and other summative targets driving the formative assessment Pathways is for teachers and others to consider that as students deepen their understandings and proficiency the elements of the Pathways will approach summative assessments.  One could argue that really good exit tasks could be summative ‘prep’ for summative targets – similarly, really thought provoking Hinge Questions might approach summative expectations, as could ‘Show Me’ opportunities like – show me what happens to the area of a rectangle when the length of each side is doubled.

8. How can we assist teachers who do not have math content knowledge to develop Hinge Questions and the ability to create those questions on a regular basis?

Huge issue.  Lots of help needed here – at the pre-service level, within professional development, and related to planning expectations of teachers.  Mathematical knowledge for teaching must address the content background necessary for teaching important mathematics and this must be an ongoing professional development commitment.  Additionally, teacher planning must consider the formative assessments to be used within a proposed lesson.  Short, albeit, cryptic response to a VERY important issue which needs attention every day.