When teachers know their students well, they can build strong connections that lead to better learning. Knowing students’ interests, strengths, and weaknesses help teachers tailor learning experiences for their students. Formative assessment involves the teacher collecting information about what students know, don’t know, and want to learn. This information takes many forms, including observations, exit tickets, discussions, games, and quizzes. These kinds of informal assessments can also help teachers get to know their students as learners and as people.
There is a very wide variety of digital formative assessment tools that can be used for free (often charging for extra features). I’ve written a little about 15 of them below. Most of these tools work with any web browser, so they are great for laptops, computer labs, iPads, Chromebooks, tablets, and smartphones.
One of the biggest advantages to using these kinds of tools is that they give every student in a class a voice. Students are spared the embarrassment of having to volunteer or be called on to answer a question out loud because everyone answers. While most of the tools require students to have some sort of device that can connect to the internet, there are a few that work when students have no technology at all. Others can be set up at a center or station for students to rotate through.
- Elena Aguilar lists some questions she asks students in a survey at the beginning of each school year.
- Hollie Black-Ramsey has authored 50 funny “would you rather” questions that are kid friendly. These questions make for humorous ice-breakers and warm-up questions.
- Edutopia has 40 reflection questions that are a great way for students to look backward, inward, outward, and forward. Plucking a few questions from this list can give teachers and students valuable insights.
- Lisa Chesser writes about asking questions that spark thought. See her list of 50 questions to help students think about why they think.
- Teri Heick shares 100 questions to help students think about thinking.
- Rebecca Alber keeps it simple. She asks five straightforward, simple-worded questions.
- Dr. Lori Desautels shares some interesting bell work activities.
Many of the tools are designed to share the results on a big screen, which can spark a class discussion and help the class get to know each other. Most have the option to keep responses between each student and the teacher only. Some provide students instant feedback while others are designed for open-ended responses. Most keep track of the data for review as the assessment is happening (real-time monitoring) and most store data for review and analysis after the assessment is completed.
Some of the websites and apps below are games. Some use multimedia. Others are mostly text. Some are simple, and some are packed with features. I made a graphic for each tool that gives a very short overview about what it can do for teachers.
Create a form at forms.google.com. The form has a variety of question types and can contain hyperlinks, images, and videos. The form can be a survey or a graded quiz. Preview the form and copy the link. Get the link to students through a QR code, a shortened URL, or a website posting.
Plickers is available for free for Android and iPhone (and works on iPads too). Rather than responding online or with an app, they hold up cards, which are their "paper clickers" (a.k.a. plickers). You can print a set 40 or 63 cards from for free (or buy a nice set on Amazon). Each card is numbered, coded, and marked with A, B, C, & D. Studenst rotate their assigned cards so that the letter for their response is at the top. The teacher pans the room with her device as the Plickers app scans using the camera. Plickers instantly recognizes each card and logs its chosen letter. Plickers has a companion website where you can associate each of your students with a card number. The website keeps track of every question and response. You can review each student's response history in a Plickers.com’s scoresheet. The website is also makes it handy to input your questions and display them on a big screen.
I use Poll Everywhere in just about every presentation I give. I can conduct live multiple choice and open-ended polls. Results are instantly displayed on my computer, which is connected to a big screen for everyone to see. My favorite Poll Everywhere feature is live word clouds. The audience types in responses on their devices, and Poll Everywhere displays a word cloud—the sizes of the words on my screen indicate how frequently they were submitted. The word cloud grows and adjusts as responses are received. I like that the audience does not need an app. They simply go to my Poll Everywhere page and answer the question with no login required.
Socrative.com is a free web-based service that’s great for collecting student responses. The teacher creates a quiz with multiple choice and/or short answer questions. This is handy: short answer questions can be marked as correct or incorrect. So the teacher can ask for answers that are numbers, words, or phrases. Spelling counts with short answers, so it’s nice that Socrative allows for multiple correct responses to short answer questions.
Nearpod works in the web browser of any device. The teacher creates or uploads a slideshow and then adds questions, which can be used to collect multiple, short answers, drawings, and more. When the slideshow begins, the teacher provides a code for students to join. There’s the option for teacher-paced where the whole class follows along (and the teacher monitors in real-time), or the option for student-paced slideshows where students advance their own slides.
ClassFlow is free from the Promethean company and works on any device with a web browser. When the teacher starts a lesson in ClassFlow, a class code is displayed, Students enter that class code at classflow.com/student. While you can use ClassFlow without first inputting classes and students names, you’ll probably want to take the time to do this so that students’ responses are recorded in ClassFlow’s reports. Additionally, ClassFlow has the option to award students badges for accomplishments.
Teachers can create digital assignments for free at GoFormative.com. You can add any combination of multiple choice, short answer, true/false, and show your work questions. There’s an option to upload an existing PDF and transform it into an electronic answer sheet. After the assignment is made, students can join by entering a Quick Code or by following a unique URL for the assignment. Assignments can even be posted to Google Classroom. As students answer questions, their teacher can see the responses in real time, grade them, and provide feedback. GoFormative.com has great tutorials and videos to help you get started.
Classkick is available for students on Chromebooks, Macs, and PCs through the web at classkick.com. To create an assignment, a teacher uploads a PDF or starts with a blank multi-page canvas. Then the teacher can add typing, drawings, photos, hyperlinks, and audio recordings to each page before assigning to one or more Class Rosters. Students canjoin an assignment using a Class Code (there are no passwords to fuss with). Students work at their own pace, and can privately raise their hands. The teacher can jump into their screen and give instant help. The teacher can view everything each student has added to an assignment in real-time and add feedback at any time. Note that Classkick does not have the ability to grade student submissions against an answer key—the teacher manually grades student work.
Seesaw is a very easy way for students to add their work to an online learning journal. First, the teacher creates a class list inside of Seesaw. Seesaw provides a code that students can use to access the class list. A student adds work simply by selecting his or her name and uploading. He or she can also add a caption, labels, or audio narration. The teacher can provide feedback, and she is in control of what is published to the class feed.
Teachers prompt students to respond, and students explain their thinking on video with Recap. It’s a free at letscap.com. Here’s how it works. The teacher creates an assignment for the class or individual students. The assignment can have a single question or multiple questions. Optionally the teacher can record a video for each question. Each student joins the class through through a Class Pin or by logging in on the website or in Recap’s iOS or Android app. After recording, students’ videos are sent to the teacher’s Recap dashboard. The teacher can view videos individually and view a daily review reel. The teacher can type comments for each video submission.
The teacher can turn on the self-assessment option for an assignment. After recording the video, students rate their response as Got It, Partially Got It, or Didn’t Get It. The self-assessment data appears in the teacher’s Recap dashboard. This, along with viewing the responses, can help the teacher determine needs groups, enrichment circles, interest clusters, etc.
Kahoot is a popular (and free) class quiz game–kids and teachers love it! The teacher starts a quiz with multiple choice or sequencing questions. Students join the game using a game code. The teacher’s computer connects to a projector so it can display each question. Students respond using the buttons that are on their devices’ screens. The faster they answer, the more points they get. Teachers can sign up and find or create quizzes at getkahoot.com.
You can create and play class quiz games at quizizz.com. It’s a lot like Kahoot. The major difference is that Quizizz displays the question and answer options on each students’ screen. Kahoot, on the other hand, displays the question on one screen and students’ screen show only clickable buttons. Students play on their own devices by joining the teachers game with a code. The faster a student answers a question, the more points he or she earns. Quizizz has memes, which are funny pictures, that is shows after each question. You can turn these off, but you won’t want to. Quizizz lets you turn off the leaderboard and timer, if you have students who get too stressed out when the quiz is a competition. Quizizz can be played as a class or quizzes can be left open for 2 weeks, so a quiz can be used as homework or at a center.
There’s a class game you can play through Quizlet. It’s called Quizlet Live, and it’s free. The teacher simply clicks the Quizlet Live button on any Quizlet study set that has at least 12 unique items. The game works with sets that are all text and with ones that have images. You need at least 6 students to play. Students go to quizlet.live in any device’s web browser and enter the access code for the game the teacher initiated. After all students have joined, Quizlet Live randomly divides students into teams of 3 or 4 players. Each team gets a randomly selected animal mascot. Student move so they are seated with their teammates. Once the game is started, teams race to match 12 terms and definitions. The thing is, each team member has 3-4 of the terms on their screens. This means students need to work together to make the matches. A wrong answer will reset a team’s progress to zero, so players need to be cautious with their answers. The teacher’s screen displays the progress for each team. That screen can be mirrored onto a big screen so teams can see each other’s progress. The first team to correctly match all 12 terms is the winner. At a game’s conclusion, the teacher’s screen can display the terms that the class needs to work on (based on wrong answers during game play).
Quizalize is a new website for playing class quiz games. The teacher can input her own questions or find a pre-made quiz. Students join the game by logging in or with a game code and are assigned to one of two teams. The teacher’s computer can either display team progress on a projector screen or be for the teacher to view who is doing well and who might need some help with the content.
Triventy is a website for group surveys and quiz games. The teacher can input her own questions or find pre-made questions. Students join the game by logging in with a game code The teacher’s computer displays questions on a projector screen, and student devices also show the question and response buttons. Teachers can sign up for free at triventy.com.
SketchParty TV is a high-tech drawing game that plays like Pictionary. It's great for reinforcing vocabulary in just about any subject. You can enter your own words (at least 16) and then play in groups to draw and guess the words. It’s awesome to see the thinking process when students try figure out how to represent abstract concepts in a quick sketches. The app manages the game play after you input the team members. It chooses the order of players, randomly select words, and keeps score. The app even plays fun gameshow music while you play! Sketch Party TV is a paid app for iOS and requires your device to be mirrored to a TV or projector. On the device’s screen SketchParty TV displays the word/phrase to draw and Pass and Got It buttons, which the other players cannot see on the mirrored screen. You can mirror with an adapter or AirPlay to an Apple TV, or through a computer with software like Reflector. Play SketchParty TV with your family and friends and get to know its mechanics before playing in the classroom. It’s big fun at parties and gatherings!
I think best way to get to know a student is to talk to him or her. This list of digital tools definitely does not replace face to face interaction, but they can play a part in checking for understanding, surveying background knowledge, reviewing content, and getting a general pulse of the classroom.
What other digital tools should I add to this list? How do you digitally get to know your students?