Do you do Formative Assessments? PSHHH! DUH! Every 2-3 minutes!!

It always makes me chuckle when non-language teachers talk about where they try to fit in “formative assessments” in their classrooms. When you really get the hang of teaching with Comprehensible Input, formative assessment is done every 2-3 minutes in your classroom.

This year, for our professional development at the start of the year (groan! UGH!) we actually had a fantastic half day session on making thinking visible. I got lots of good new ideas to try in the class which I will blog about as I do them, but more importantly it made me feel REALLY good about everything I already do in my class.

We are CONSTANTLY assessing our students on their levels of comprehension. Their demonstration of their understanding guides our questioning and how and when we introduce new vocabulary. There are MANY forms of formative assessments and comprehension checks. Here are a few of my favorites, along with a description of how I use each in my own classroom.

  • Class choral response- This is the check that I use most frequently. Often, when starting out teaching this methodology, teachers forget to establish meaning of the word or structure that they are circling. If the meaning is NOT established at the very beginning, the time you spend circling, is incomprehensible, and it is a total waste. Establishing meaning is easy. Have the word posted on your paper, or board in one color and have the translation of the word in a different color right next to it. I start by pointing to the word I will be circling, and asking my students immediately, ¿Cómo se dice _________ en inglés? (How do you say_____ in English?) then I COUNT…. uno…dos….tres (1,2,3) Then my students CHORALLY say the translation. The meaning is then established and I can move forward with my circling or PQA or story using that word. The COUNTING IS ESSENTIAL! It gives every single student, the quick processors and slow,  time to process the question I have asked, and think of their answer. It allows 100% of your class to answer confidently. It helps to lower the affective filter too.
    • One way I alter the choral response is just reverse the order I ask that question in, I may ask for the Spanish rather than the English.
    • You don’t only have to use it with “How do you say?” questions. If you have created a story, or if you have been doing PQA, you can ask ANY question, and give SS a count and they will answer chorally.
  • Close your eyes!- I use this throughout the class. Not just at the very end. If I am curious if students are comprehending and acquiring and maybe suspicious that a few might be stuck on a word, I will stop everything and tell the students to close their eyes (I do this in Spanish a LOT the first week of school, so that I don’t have to break into English to give them this command). Once their eyes are closed I can do lots.
    • Thumbs up/thumbs down- I can ask questions based on the story we have been creating or the PQA we’ve been discussing and ask students to show me with their thumbs “yes/no”. You can tell immediately if a student is confused because they will try to peek. All of my students think that I had a University course on identifying when a SS is peeking or not. Yes, it is great….
    • Gesture- I have students “show me” the gesture for the word we are working to acquire. I mix it up with lots of old vocabulary they already know well.  The eyes closed again, shows me who knows the gesture/meaning confidently.
    • Stand up/Sit down- I use this one just like thumbs up/thumbs down. It just allows for more movement. I like it less than thumbs up/thumbs down though, because for those students who rely on their friends, they are listening closely to the movement of their neighbor, sometimes closer to that movement than the question itself! haha!
  • Gestures- I love TPR. ESPECIALLY in Spanish 1 and half way through Spanish 2. When I am establishing meaning of a word, I ALWAYS have a gesture. SS associate that gesture with the word that we are circling and acquiring. Some students who are kinaesthetic learners, do this gesture lots, when they hear me speaking. Others use the gesture to speak for them if they don’t like to output in front of the whole class. Sometimes, as I am doing PQA, I will ask my students to DO the gesture, EVERY time they hear a specific structure/word. Movement is great for their brains, and it is a consistent comprehension check for me. As SS acquire and become confident in their vocabulary I use the gesture less and less. At the end of the year for example, I am rarely using the gestures for the words we did at the beginning of the year.
  • Paper exit quiz- There are many ways to use these. Here are some of my favorites.
    • If you worked on a story in class, it is nice to have a student write questions for you that you can ask at the end. At the beginning of Spanish one I stick to yes/no, either or, and one word answers for the majority of the quiz, and maybe throw in a translation for the last question. (3-5 questions)
    • If you did PQA, ask some questions about the students who you were discussing in class.
    • a quick yes/no quiz is great if you don’t have much time.
    • You can have students summarize everything you discussed in class in English.(I don’t love this option all the time, but it is good on occasion, and your over ambitious students will always do it in the TL)
  • Brain Breaks- How great is it when you can ASSESS what your kiddos know AND give them a brain break at the same time!?
    • Simon Says- Play it using your target structures and have students do the gesture for each word
      • Have students play it with each other later in the year
    • Say what I do- Have one student gesture, and a partner yell out what they are gesturing. The yelling is IMPORTANT… it lowers the affective filter for those SS who are more nervous about outputting. If everyone is yelling they assume nobody is listening to them.

The next time someone asks you if you do formative assessments, hand them this list…. and just say, “PSHHHH! Only every 2 minutes!”


Happy Teaching!


La Maestra Loca

This is a photo of one of my classes doing Simon Says last year…..10358134_1807054226188762_148223166725410194_n


  1. Oh, I could kiss you, Annabelle. So many TPRS teachers say “I don’t do much assessment” and I want to shout: “yes, you do!” If more people stood their ground and insisted that TPR is a “real” assessment and superior to summative assessments because it’s used to drive instruction, maybe there would be could make traditional teachers listen and put away their photocopied (from textbooks) tests, quizzes, and worksheets. Such a great message and perfect post!

    1. YAY! I know… I have to do 2 “summative” assessments per year. I NEVER do more than that. The formative everyday, every minute assessments are what count and guide me AND my kids. They know it too! I am glad you read and enjoyed! XOXOOX Te adoro!

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