Classroom Techniques: Formative Assessment Technique Number One

By |

Kelly Goodrich |

Formative Assessment Technique Number One - The Popsicle Stick

In previous blogs we’ve outlined how raising hands is not necessarily a good strategy to encourage – Instructional Strategies: Raising Hands in Class and the Outlier Effect. We’ve also defined formative assessment as an ongoing, minute by minute evaluation of student learning. So with these two thoughts in mind, we’ll start to explore some classroom techniques that engage the entire student body, helping teachers solicit evidence of student learning and understanding.

Formative assessment technique number one… the Popsicle™ stick.


While perhaps not earth-shattering, the Popsicle™ stick approach to student engagement can provide a more random selection for answers, which means that the consistent hand-raiser isn’t dominating classroom discussion (and evaluation). Have each student write their name on a Popsicle™ stick and place all the sticks in a cup. Ask a question of the class, draw a stick from the cup and have the student whose name is on the stick respond to the question.

All-student (random) response systems like this engage all students and sets an expectation that all students are worth hearing, dispel notions of favoritism, and perhaps more importantly identify gaps in student understanding. This formative assessment strategy, and others in our Keeping Learning on Track (KLT) program, can give teachers the real-time, in class assessment information they need to better adapt instruction and meet student needs.

Are you a teacher or education professional? Have you used Popsicle™ sticks or other random response systems like them? If so we’d love to hear from you… how did it change your classroom?

Photo Credit Photo Credit to Sarah Buckley

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