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9 Informal Assessments to Help You Pinpoint What Your Learners Need

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February 8th, 2018

The great thing about informal assessments is they help us gauge students’ understanding during the learning process instead of after. Informal assessment also changes teachers’ relationship to student learning.

Through informal assessment, a teacher becomes a guide throughout the learning process, rather than the judge of the student’s final product. While committing to formative—or informal—assessment school-wide can be a game-changer for your learners, it’s also important to understand that regularly checking in with kids’ learning can dramatically improve outcomes.

Teachers are already stretched when it comes to classroom management and covering all the required content. To make it easier for them, look for informal assessment practices that fit into the life of the classroom and result in data that’s easy for teachers to track and follow through on.

UPDATED NOTE: With a rise in remote learners due to the spread of coronavirus, the following tips could also be applied at home and implemented by parent-teachers.

Here are 9 everyday informal assessment practices to get you started.

1. Exit Slips

Get kids in the habit of knowing they will be expected to fill out exit slips that follow the same format every time. This helps students know what they need to be thinking about as they are learning. Here are sample questions you can ask:

  • 3 things I learned today
  • 2 things I found interesting
  • 1 question I still have

For those with students at home, this is especially important from a simple check-in standpoint, as normal routines have been readjusted and the challenges of being quarantined set in. Asking them these questions could be a way to gauge their emotional well-being and remind them to remain positive.

2. Strategic Multiple Choice

Multiple choice questions make assessment more reliable, marking easier, and student understanding more visible to teachers. To come up with questions that show how students are thinking, teachers need to have a good idea of ways kids might misunderstand the information. Teachers can then present one correct response with three possible misunderstandings.

3. Kahoot!

This app is probably one of the most fun ways to get kids to share what they know. Kahoot! is a platform where teachers create quizzes, discussions, and surveys. Kahoot! is displayed via a TV or projector, and participants enter the game pin to play from their mobile phone or other device.

One of the best features of Kahoot! is that it collates data for teachers in a downloadable spreadsheet, where they can see if students are struggling with anything in particular. Try this: Use Kahoot! for a staff meeting to get teachers engaged and excited to try it in their own classrooms. For more information on how to create a Kahoot! or to see an example, visit

4. Backchannel Chat

backchannel is a digital conversation that happens at the same time as a face-to-face activity. This is a place where students can share their thinking about the topic or assignment. This app gives students and teachers a place to store backchannel conversation information that can be used to see how students feel about their learning. This kind of formative assessment gives teachers insight into which students might be thinking, “I’m not sure I understand this” or “What does this have to do with what we are learning?” Other apps or services that serve a similar purpose are: Google Hangout, Skype, Discord, LINE, and WeChat. Choose the one that makes most sense for your students, or is already largely adopted within the community.

5. Plickers

This is a cool way to get kids to answer every single question, every single time. With Plickers’ easy-to-print code sheets, teachers can collect data with only one device. Here’s how it works: Each student is given a card with a unique code. The code has four sides, each lettered A, B, C, and D. Students hold their cards so that the letter they choose to answer the question with is at the top of their card. Teachers can then use the iOS or Android app on their smartphone to slowly scan the room.

The app recognizes the cards, records who’s been assigned, and captures the answer that the student chose. The app will only record each student’s answer once, so there’s no need to worry about a second scan skewing the data. Collecting formative data in this manner is fast and engaging for kids.

6. Skills Checklist

Before teaching a unit, teachers can develop a list of all the skills each student will learn. When working with students, teachers put a “+” or “–“ to indicate where they think each student is on each skill. The data goes into a spreadsheet or directly into an LMS system that’s easy-to-use. Using tools to save, store, and manage the formative data you and your teachers need can make the difference between formative assessment buy-in or not.

7. Demonstration Stations

The use of demonstration stations is a great way for students to show what they know and to help the teacher determine the direction of future instruction. Stations are set up at varying points during a unit. Then, students are asked to demonstrate learning. At each station, there should be an iPad or laptop where students can enter their thinking and results, making data collection seamless. For example, you could have a table with Wikkisticks. Students can have a list of the sight words they are working on. They each make the words on their list with the Wikkisticks on a mat with their name on it. Using an iPad, they take a picture of the words and…there’s your evidence!

8. Photo Capture

Take photos of things related to the current learning. Ask students to caption each photo based on their understanding of the subject (via a social media app like Instagram). Assess the captions and give them a rating based on a scale from 1 (deep understanding) to 5 (surface understanding).

[SOURCE: Nerdy, nerdy, nerdy]

This tip applies for non-photo sources as well. Students can capture news articles or audio clips that they find particularly compelling, and to go a step further, relate it to current events relevant to the topic. For example, your student might share a math video about exponential growth related to COVID-19, or post an audio clip from a lead epidemiologist for biology.

9. Student-Created Quizzes

Instead of giving students a quiz, have them create their own! Formulating questions about newly learned content is a good way to encourage deep thinking. For example, as you’re reading a class novel together, assign different groups of students to work together to create a quiz on one of the chapters. There are even apps that let teachers scan all the quizzes into a computer or device for instant data access.

Teachers have been using formative and summative data to inform their teaching for a long time. Interpreting data helps teachers understand how students learn and how best to meet their needs. At the same time, when students learn how to track their own data, it can empower them to understand their learning. Best of all, informal assessment moves your school culture away from judging and testing toward a more student-centered focus on the learning process.

As students grapple with shifting dynamics, these quick and informal steps will go a long way to keeping them on track academically and emotionally.


Learn what each assessment tool tells us about student learning by downloading our free Comprehensive Assessment System infographic:


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  1. Dennis Makotsa on February 23, 2018 at 12:13 pm

    Great post! Will try the photo capture and quiz formulation with my students

    • Cheryl on March 2, 2019 at 12:02 pm

      I really enjoyed your post on informal assessments! I’ve used a few, but had forgotten others! I plan on using Plickers, the photo capture, and the quiz formulation by students!

  2. Jody on February 23, 2018 at 4:04 pm

    Love the checklist idea! I’m usually aware and take note of where they’re at, but I don’t write it down in an organized manner. Thank you for a practical suggestion.

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