Addressing Questions about Formative Assessment Lessons


Rather than go through a gazillion tweets, thought I would share my thoughts here.

The Formaltive Assessment Lessons I have shared I  the past come from the MARS site.  You will find tasks, lessons even sample assessments.


If you are just visiting the site for the first time, I would encourage you to spend a bit of time in the Professional Development modules.

     “Module 1 intoduces the model of formative assessment used in the lessons, its theroetical background and practical      implemention.Modules 2 & 3 look at the two types of Classroom Challenges in detail. Modules 4 & 5 explore two crucial pedagogical features of the lessons: asking probing questions and collaborative learning.” MARS site description.

The assessment tasks are shorter, but still allow for some amazing mathematical discussions, especially when implemented using the format of #5pracs model.  Tasks are organized by levels with the expert involving a wider range of Mathematical Practices, less structured and requires more problem solving /centent knowledge.  Where as the novice seem to be more straight forward, provide a bit more structure.  Which task to choose? Well, it depends on your students and your purpose of assessment for a particular standard.

The classroom challenges (FALs) are much more lengthy.  Usually 2, even 3 day total for complete implementation of the lesson.  I am okay with ‘sacrificing’ this time when students are engaged, having mathematical conversations.  The productive struggle they may experience causes the ideas to stick with them.  For example, this year, some of my Algebra 2 students referred back to a lesson from their 9th grade year about “Tom” which was a lesson on time-distance graphs…one of the first FALs I ever attempted.  How many other lessons have I taught over the years that truly stuck with them?  Monster Trucks @mathprojects, definitely, but my lecture, notes, worksheet practice…never.

FALs are either problem-solving based, usually students attempt a problem individually, then in a pair or small group, then they analyze student samples of the same task.  The concept development often uses cards sort activities.  Using these have impacted how I present other lessons as well.  I see the value in student discussions and sharing, allowing them to create their own ideas rather than me telling them every single step.

Like any other resource, FALs can be modified to fit your learners. However, I have seen greater impact on learning when I follow the layout of the lesson closely.  Teachers have tested these lessons, anticipated student strategies/misconceptions and even outlined possible questions you may ask to move a learner forward.

Each FAL is outlined to show intended learning goal, along with mathematical practices that will be evident in the lesson. There is prep time involved. Don’t think you can download the night before, make copies  before class the nest day and begin. 

Ideally, the FALs would be placed about 2/3 through the corresponding unit of study.  I have found them to be very eye-opening to my students’ thinking.  Some FALs require some pre-requisite skills, so you must go through the lesson in order to see what the students will be doing.

Also, if you are an Algebra 1 teacher, dip back into 7th & 8th grade for some great lessons, especially if you are in the transitioning phase of CCSS.  I especially like Increasing Decreasing Quantities by a Percent, Interpreting Distance Time Graphs, Modeling Situations w Linear, Representing and Combining Transformations Equations from middle school lists.

If you have specific questions, please share in comments.  I am no expert, but I have implemented enough of the lessons in the past 3 years to know they have a place in my classroom.

Pam Wilson, NBCT
Currently Reading
5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematical Discussions, Smith & Stein
Teach Like  a Pirate, Dave Burgess
From Ashes to Honor, Loree Lough


One response »

  1. Pingback: Flashback Friday – Past Posts | the radical rational...

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s