The Efficient 21st Century Classroom: Meeting the Needs of Feedback with Formative

By Formative Educator Daniel Woleslagle

Daniel teaches 6th grade!

Daniel teaches 6th grade!

The process of education is an ever-evolving entity. The world of a student twenty years ago is almost unrecognizable today. Often, when I think about this, I forget that twenty years ago was only 1997. In 1997 there were no Ipods, no MP3s, no digital tablets, no modern social media, and encyclopedias still filled library shelves. The daily routines and interactions of our students were no more than fleeting thoughts of inventors or science fiction. How can we expect our students to learn in that same environment? Unfortunately for many there is little thought given to asking a group of students to sit in the same classrooms and learn in the same manner as some of us did in high school. Our perception of education tools must evolve beyond pencil and paper. 

Perhaps the greatest challenge that educators face today is understanding that students do not interact with each other in the same manner that we did at their age. For sure, this could be a lengthy discussion about the benefits and drawbacks of modern technology, but if we truly embrace the education of today’s young people we must be willing to understand their learning process. They live in a world of the instantaneous. Everything that they need, want and experience is little more than a few clicks and at most a few seconds away. Shouldn’t their interactions with education come from a similar place of rapid reinforcement. There has been significant research into this in an attempt to better understand how the modern classroom can be at it’s most efficient. One such ongoing study is that of Dr. Paul J. Riccomini from Penn State University. Dr. Riccomini focuses on Response to Intervention Instruction in Mathematics. One of the key elements of this study is “more frequent progress monitoring of those students in need” (Riccomini, 2010). This is where I believe that Formative can be extremely valuable. 

In my classroom, I use Formative not only in getting feedback to my students, but also in getting feedback to my parents, administrators and myself. When my students are reviewing or assessing on Formative, I have an unobstructed view into the progress of each and every student. 

Single Question View of student answers during a math assessment

Single Question View of student answers during a math assessment

 Being able to see every student’s answers as they progress through their work gives me an opportunity to intervene and support almost instantly. If I see that a student has missed the last two or three problems in a math assessment, I have the ability to see what key idea that student is missing. This allows me to directly address that individual student on their level as they are working through the problem. This makes their learning more impactful, and increases the odds that they will retain the information that we discuss. In years past, the student would work on the assignment, turn it in, wait for me to grade it that night and return it the next day. So, a full day later they receive a paper with a failing grade. This does not motivate them to start from square one in figuring out what they did wrong. More often than not, they will feel dejected or “stupid” and tell themselves that they just “can’t get it”. By correcting them as they work, I am able to fix their often minor mistakes instantly and give them the opportunity to practice the material correctly. 

I have the privilege to teach a 6th grade, self contained, classroom. Often, I have parents who want feedback on how their students are doing that is more than a report card. With Formative, my parents can see exactly how their students did on an assignment, and are able to work with those minor concerns at home. This also helps my students and parents know exactly where they are standing grade-wise at any given point. You see, this feedback is more than just a grade. It is an intervention. 

Of course, some of the greatest need for feedback is for myself. Whether I am using an Exit Slip, a class survey, or looking for areas of reteaching as a whole class, I have access to those individual question and assessment scores without sifting through stacks of papers or creating a new matrix to organize it all. Imagine, instant feedback. When I review a test or assignment in my class I love how I am able to turn off identifiers and correct answers and as a class we can study the answers that the class gave without judgement. We look for common answers and discuss the misconceptions that led to them. This helps my students know that they are not alone in the mistakes that they have made. 

In all, Formative has given me a way to efficiently and instantly engage my students on an individual level. I have found that my students are more engaged in the material and have taken a higher interest in fixing mistakes and bettering their scores. This feedback has allowed them to work with individual issues and not entire chapter tests or bulky assignments. Whether they are on an Ipad in my room, a smart phone on the bus, or discussing the assignment with their parents and friends at home, they have an educational tool that meets them on their level and in their instant digital world. 
Riccomini, P.J. (2010) Response to Instruction and Intervention for Math. Retrieved on 5/22/17     from 


Preparing For College with Formative and Monsters University!

Teachers discover creative ways to apply Formative everyday! For example, Heather Roberti is helping her elementary students prepare for college by letting them explore Disney's Monsters University website, which has essential information they'd find on an actual college site, in the style of the Pixar movie! She hyperlinks to different parts of the "school website" and students record what they learn about admissions requirements, academics, and campus life in Formative! She can use those insights to make sure that everyone is on the same page.

Kudos to Heather for finding such a fun way to teach her students how to navigate a college website and find important resources!

Monsters University:
Heather's formative:

Making Thinking Visible

The other day, Jeremy Tuller provided his student with the angle of elevation to the top of a tree. His student drew the tree, a right triangle, and applied trigonometry to find the height of it. We love when teachers use Formative to help students make their thinking visible and all the interesting insights that emerge!


A Great Way To Engage Students In A Text...Before They Read It!

Lisa Scumpieru recently discovered a great way to use Formative while engaging her students in "The Great Gatsby". She inserts quotes from what they have yet to read and let's them guess their meaning! This is awesome because it helps students infer based on what they know about characters, make real-life connections, and get excited to find out what happens next in the story!


Using Formative, Lisa can project different guesses to enhance before and after reading discussions. Plus, her colleague and fellow Formative Educator, Katie Lingg, was able to observe, learn, and take these great pics!


Team Goose Chase with Formative!

This is such a fun idea for peer learning! 5th grade teacher Kelsey Rupsch uses the Goose Chase app to create academic scavenger hunts and awards points to teams based on their progress. We were thrilled to hear that she had applied this to Formative, having her students collaborate to complete math challenges as review! Kelsey was able to give them immediate feedback via Formative and after they overcame each challenge, they documented their success by taking a group selfie on the app. Congrats Orange Team!

How To Effectively Use Data To Drive Instruction

Using data to guide instruction is the key to both student and teacher success. Purposeful instruction with specific interventions allows for students to feel successful in the classroom. We love this visual from Four O Clock Faculty talking about using data to guide your instruction. So important for us to remember these tips. What is your most effective and favorite way to use data in your classroom? Share your tips with us!


Embedding FlipGrid So Students Can Share Video Reflections!

Recently, Joe Marquez (Formative Educator), discovered that you can embed a Flipgrid into Formative. The benefit is that students can create and compare video responses without leaving their formative. For example, Joe embeds it at the end of science lab formatives so students can reflect upon what they learned from each station and learn from their peers.

We could imagine using this powerful hack/appsmash for peer learning across content areas, from number talks to Spanish dialogues! How would you use it? We'd love to hear your ideas!

How to embed something in Formative:
Joe's example:

How Will You Solve This Problem?

One of the major reasons teachers use Formative is because their students can use our draw tool to share their individual thinking. This detailed student evidence allows teachers to make learning more personalized and interventions more meaningful.

Kristen Leiher illustrates this by posing a Greatest Common Factor world problem on Formative and encouraging students to use different strategies to solve it with a combination of words, images, and text. The responses are fuel for a student-centered discussion. By discussing them, students can learn from their peers and expand the ways they think about math!


Teaching Students How To Craft Complex Questions

Ever heard of Norman Webb's Depth of Knowledge (DOK) Levels? Essentially, they represent how deeply you must know something to complete a task. The 4 levels range from simply recalling facts to making value judgments about experimental methods you use.

They are extremely useful for crafting the questions you ask students and determining whether they are learning as deeply as you intend. What's neat is you can teach your students about DOK so they are able to both self-assess and peer-assess effectively!

Ms. Sweiss helps her Ss actively learn about DOK by letting them create level-aligned questions based on reading passages. She uses Formative to project the emerging questions that students come up with so that they can can give peer feedback before actually using them. Learning about learning=awesome

Fostering Responsible Digital Citizenship

It's never been easier for students to connect and collaborate online. With the ease of access that students have to technology, it's important to engage them in thinking about the digital learning environment they want to create for themselves and their peers.

Middle School Science teacher Angie Card does it with Formative! As shown in the pic below, she asks her students how they can improve the internet. It's an open-ended question that students can respond to by typing, drawing, or inserting media. It can spark great class discussions about what it takes to be a responsible digital citizen!

Formative x Seesaw App Smash: Differentiation & Student Growth Tracking

by David Kwan

Have you ever tried to simultaneously use Formative and Seesaw? It's an awesome combination for differentiating learning and helping students track their own growth.

As shown in the visual below, Formative Educator Pamela Rountree uses both for her 5th grade flipped activities! Students easily access a formative based on what they need to practice via a quick or QR code! On Formative, they then watch an instructional video at their own pace and create live responses that Pamela can use intervene. Lastly, they submit a response to their Seesaw portfolio and record an audio explanation of their work!

We hope to release our growth tracker for both teachers and students to use soon! In the meantime, this is an awesome app smash workaround!

Mashup Math

by Angela Gonzales 

Have you seen MashUp Math on Facebook and Twitter? If not, you have to check them out. They've got awesome brain benders, low floor- high ceiling problems, and lots of engaging activities for your kiddos. We love taking a look at the problems of the day and embedding or adding them to a formative. This way, we know our kiddos are engaged in content and us as teachers can hold them accountable, provide real-time feedback, and have results to last and inform our teaching. Check them out today!


Assess and Dab

by Angela Gonzales 

We snagged this awesome visual for our math teachers from educator, Graham Andre'. He shared this math assignment with his students and we loved the "buy-in" that it created for his kiddos. Who doesn't want to learn about math when you get to do the bottle flipping challenge and the dab? Once we saw this visual, we thought immediately about uploading it to Formative and using it for math. That way, students are engaged and excited in their material and we, as teachers, are also able to obtain immediate results of their understanding. Two for the price of one. What are some other fun and creative ways we can tap into our kid's interests and also get them working in content specific areas? Do you have a favorite method for "Teaching Like a Pirate?" Share with us!

Homeschool in the modern world…

By Formative Educator Kimi Wolf

A resource for all!

Can I just start out by saying that Go Formative is an awesome tool?  It’s been a big help over the past few months. We started homeschooling 3 years ago, almost all the time I was either typing out the work and printing it out or having my daughter write it out.  After a while it started to get frustrating, for both of us. It was so hard to keep her focused and wanting to write out the work.  Her hands hurt her a lot some days, so writing hasn’t been easy for her.  Being able to do the work with Go Formative makes it so much easier for her. ( Now if only I could find an essay program that would guide her toward better essays).  I knew that she needed a technology class as well, and typing her class work would be a good addition for that very reason.

What made us choose Formative?

I spent nearly two weeks looking all over the web for the perfect fit for us. That’s when I came across Go Formative!  I checked it out, put some work up for her, and she loved it! Her grades have gone up, and she looks forward to her classes!   It used to be that she would procrastinate and come up with so many excuses why she didn’t want to do her classes, now it’s easier.  Since she can do it all online, she understands it better and is more willing to do her classwork.  Talk about a great asset for the homeschooling families like us. Now if I can just get her to use scratch paper for writing out her math problems we’d be golden!

It’s a great asset in the classroom...both home and public school!

With Go Formative I can put up images of a graph, or a whiteboard explanation of a problem, and the math block is awesome!  With the math block, you can put in code, and enter in the math problems to not only make them easy to read, but oh so very spiffy. I mean, seriously, it looks all professional. Here, have a look, this is one of the lessons I made for her.

Go here and use this code XMHWRZ

I’ve made quite a few of the lessons available for others to use.  Mostly we have math lessons, but there are the occasional science, literature, and social studies tests.  I’ve even been able to help a friend of mine in another state tutor her daughter in math with the lessons I’ve written up!

Doesn’t that look nice?  I would show you all some of the whiteboard work...but, seriously, you all don’t need to see my crazy chicken scratch. :)  On second’s an example of the white board...with my chicken scratch and all. Lol

There’s also this part called instant feedback where you can send notes to the students.  We don’t use it all the time since she does her lessons right there with me in the room.  But, when I grade her work after she goes to bed I use it, mostly to give her ideas and let her know what a great job she’s doing!  Having that allows teachers to help their students that are home sick, with their homework, or even taking a distance learning class.  It’s an asset to the world of education.

Getting help from the formative team!

Yes, I stumbled my way through learning it, but the guys at Go Formative were so helpful! I asked a lot of questions, and I got all the right answers.  They helped me to learn the coding for the math block, not to mention they’re there to answer any future questions I may have! 

Want to reach out to Kimi and share your own ideas for using Formative for homeschooling? You can contact her on Google + by clicking here!

The Benefits of Sharing Formative With Parents

The other night, teachers at Kennedy Middle School showed parents how they use Formative in their classrooms! Sharing Formative with parents is a great idea because not only can you demonstrate how it helps you provide individualized support for each student in the classroom, but you can also start to collaborate with parents to support students at home.

For example you can host virtual office hours like Formative Educator Lisa Burkhart! She notifies parents that she'll make a formative visible for a few hours each day. This allows students and their parents to review their responses, scores, and the feedback you give, together. Plus,since all their formatives are stored in their account, it never goes missing! What a great support for student organization and parent-teacher conversations!

Got ideas for get parents involved with Formative? Please share!

Let Students Identify Their Own Misconceptions with Formative

When teachers ask students why they love Formative, students often say they like being able to share their own live responses and getting quick feedback. By providing individual support to students, teachers have a huge impact on learning and we are honored to be a part of this process.

What's even cooler is when students are given the opportunity to identify their own misconceptions and independently determine the next steps to learn more. Roxy, an awesome Math teacher, uses the Formative summary view to do just that! Students can spot which questions they need to revisit and concepts they need to review. Here's one of her student's reflections on the impact that Formative has on their learning process:




How Sean Quickly Spots Misconceptions & Then Analyzes Student Thinking

Sean Kendall (5th grade Math) has found a way to uses Formative to automatically identify students who need support AND interpret student thinking to inform intervention. He uses a combination of show your work and short answer questions. Check it out!

Do you have a different way to efficiently provide real-time intervention? Share here!

Jorge's Creative Image-based Formatives!

Jorge Branco is a 7th-12th grade history teacher in Portugal! When we met with him and two other Formative Educators, he shared how he used Formative to assess student understanding and analysis of famous Renaissance artwork! 

Here he asks students to identify whether the piece of artwork is from the Renaissance:

He asks students to identify the elements of architecture:

Let's students infer what different figures are saying and thinking based the overall piece of artwork and their historical knowledge:

And gives them the opportunity to re-imagine renaissance pieces as modern artwork:

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Here's the share codes for Jorge's two formatives (TVSNLQ, TONPQL) so you can get your own copy of it in our new version. In case you don't have access to our new version, message us over the site and we'll get you setup! How can you apply Jorge's use of images to the creation of your own formatives?

Ashley Crenca's Learning Playlists: Supporting Different Paces of Learning


Ashley Crenca is a high school teacher in Rhode Island who uses a station rotation model in her classroom. In small groups, students rotate from teacher-led instruction to collaborative learning activities, and independent, digital ones as well. This three part combo gives students different ways to learn. In particular, a digital activity station can provide learners with a variety of learning resources to choose from to review and practice skills. Learning playlists are a list of instructions to help guide student learning during this time and add in the element of choice: students can choose which resources to engage in to proceed towards goal.

Here's an example of a learning playlist from Tracy Enos that includes Formative as outlet for student reflection (via Cult of Pedagogy):

When Ashley visited fellow Formative Educator Jason Appel's classroom across the state, she came away with a major takeaway for using learning playlists. She learned that Formative is a great platform since you can embed different resources for students to choose from while simultaneously gathering live responses:

On top of giving students easy access to all the components within a playlist, the live student data gives teachers like Ashley the feedback they need to plan teacher-led instruction and collaborative work!

Plus, you can ask students to report which resources they've engaged in:

And you can also ask them to share their own progress:

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By asking both types of questions, you can uncover additional information about independent learning time that allows you to better differentiate within the station rotation model! Here's the share code for Ashley's learning playlist (TLNEKQ) so you can get your own copy of it in our new version. In case you don't have access to our new version, message us over the site and we'll get you setup!