Click on the heading below to jump to that section of strategies (Please note - on an iPad these links will not work. You must scroll to see the activities.):

Pre-Assessment Strategies

Clear Learning Targets

Clear learning targets are your learning goals presented in student-friendly language. Derived directly from the curriculum, CLTs begin with “I can…, I know…, or I will…” statements, and they are generally performance based. CLTs provide students the opportunity to take ownership of their own learning and provide ongoing formative assessment. The best CLTs are performance-based tasks that students will complete once they have acquired the requisite knowledge and skills. (Black and Wiliam, 1998)

Click here to access a 2-hour professional development on Clear Learning Targets and Essential Questions

Admit Slips

Admit Slips enable students to focus their attention on the reading and study planned for class by preparing responses, ideas, and questions that anticipate the reading for that day.

An Admit Slip should serve as a review and provide students an opportunity to provide their insight on a question or topic. OR …an Admit Slip can serve as a preview of a topic/concept that will be studied in class on the day an Admit Slip is due. Generally, the contents of the Admit Slip will serve as an impetus for a bell-ringer activity. Think-Pair-Share or other interactive strategy where students can share the contents of the Admit Slip pairs wells with this strategy. The teacher will use this activity as a formative assessment opportunity and would then clarify any misconceptions. (Vacca, R. T., & Vacca, J. A.,1999)

Check out this resource developed by Hoover City Schools in Hoover, Alabama.

No Pressure-Pretest

Pretests provide teachers with much needed information about meeting students where they are. Students need to understand that pretests will not be graded and scored. Disaggregated data from pretests should be used to modify and plan instruction. Students should ALWAYS be informed that grades will NOT be taken on pretests as the purpose is to provide the teacher with a baseline to answer the question: Where are you now?


Teachers activate students' prior knowledge by asking them what they already Know; then students (collaborating as a classroom unit or within small groups) set goals specifying what they Want to learn; and after reading students discuss what they have Learned. Students apply higher-order thinking strategies which help them construct meaning from what they read and help them monitor their progress toward their goals. A worksheet is given to every student that includes columns for each of these activities.

Click here to access a Google image search of several examples of K-W-L.

Squaring Off

Place a card in each corner of the room with the following phrases: Dirt Road, Paved Road, Highway, and Yellow Brick Road. Brainstorm with students the characteristics of each type of road and how each road represents a level of understanding. The dirt road would symbolize the lowest level of understanding where the yellow brick road would indicate an ability to teach others about the topic. Instruct students to go to the corner of the room that matches where they are in the new unit of study. You can use this activity to create cooperative learning groups, assess knowledge, and meet students where they are.

Click here for four printable signs for your room developed by Oak Hills School District.

Four Corners

Like Squaring Off, this kinesthetic method of formative assessment allows students to move to a corner of the room labeled as “A, B, C, D,” “Yes/No,” “True/False,” “Agree, Disagree, Neutral,” etc. Students move to the corner that represents their response to a prompt. Teachers use this real-time information to make adjustments to instruction.

Anticipation Guides

An anticipation guide is a comprehension strategy that is used before reading to activate students' prior knowledge and build curiosity about a new topic. Before reading, students listen to or read several statements about key concepts presented in the text; they're often structured as a series of statements with which the students can choose to agree or disagree. Anticipation guides stimulate students' interest in a topic and set a purpose for reading.

Click here to access more information.

Brain Dump

Whether you need a pre-assessment or quick focus and review, Brain Dump will provide you with information about how much information your students know or have retained about a specific concept or topic. Ask students to either dump all information they know on a sheet of paper or orally with a partner or group. Ask students to share information with the group about what they already know or what they recall from the previous day. This “no pressure” activity is also a great way to spark interest as well as have students share their individual knowledge with the class.

Knowledge Rating

This strategy is wonderful to assess what your students know prior to beginning a study of new vocabulary words. Present students with a chart of selected words. Then, students rate themselves on their current knowledge of the word: I know it and can teach someone about it, I have heard this word but am unsure of exactly what it means, or I do not yet know this word. This strategy can help inform your instruction as you learn where to focus your instructional time. Plus, students can measure their own growth when you revisit the rating throughout the unit of study.

Click here for more information about Knowledge Rating.

Alphabet Boxes

Much like Personal Dictionaries, Alphabet Boxes is a personalized, differentiated vocabulary strategy for your students. Students list any words in their alphabet boxes that they do not understand. As the unit continues, have students revisit their boxes and cross out or erase any words they have mastered over the course of the unit. Teachers can take up Alphabet boxes to know how to best prepare for their unit/vocabulary review.

Online Dictionaries

Many online dictionaries provide features not found in print versions. Sites like Merriam-Webster Visual Dictionary include images, audio pronunciation, and related words. Wordsmyth three dictionaries, making it appropriate for all ages. Confusing Words provides simple explanations and example sentences for words that are often confused or misused. (Note: All of these sites include ads.)

Google Forms

You can use this Google tool to complete a Knowledge Rating, vocabulary quiz, pre-test, final test, or any number of vocabulary activities for students. You get immediate, real-time results and data that can be disaggregated quickly and easily.


Wordle is a tool that creates a word cloud from text. The frequency of the word found in the text will determine the prominence of that word within the cloud. You can customize the word cloud with various text and color formats. Use this tool to help students determine the theme of a body of text or to highlight important words.

Click here to visit the Wordle site.


Animoto provides a great platform for activating student prior knowledge and interest in a topic or concept. Creating a music video from images could not be any easier! Users upload images/video clips and choose music. The program does the rest by importing transitions, creating a visual slideshow that will remind you of a music video. Free registration allows you to create 30 second videos, but teachers can register to create full-length (3 minute) videos at no cost. Animot0 can also be used by students to allow them an opportunity to express their knowledge/understanding.

Click here to visit Animoto. Check out the video on this page for ideas about how you can use Animoto.

Skimming and Scanning

This is a great strategy when students are assigned a large amount of reading. Give the students several minutes to skim and scan the material either in pairs or alone. Remind them to review titles, illustrations or pictures, captions, headings, subheadings, and texts. Have them complete a graphic organizer with labels such as, “First Impressions, Fast Facts, Troublesome Vocabulary, and Final Thoughts.” You can use students’ input to create important “look fors” or “questions” to consider during their reading.


Watch vocabulary videos for hundreds of words! Each video includes an illustration along with an audio definition and explanation of the word used in context. With free registration, teachers can create word lists to share with students. The “study room” includes a flash card activity.

Click here to access WordAhead. (Note: Site includes ads.)


Provide students with a list of terms, vocabulary words, or concepts found in an upcoming reading. For example, if the students were preparing to read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, the teacher might share the following terms: depression, segregation, jury, trial, South, Alabama, lawyer, racial segregation, kids, jail, poverty, housekeeper, summer, court, rabid dog, drunk.

Then, the teacher would ask students to anticipate and discuss in pairs or whole group what they think their reading will be about, how the words might be used in the novel, or what questions they have. As the reading ensues, the class can revisit the list to check predictions.

Click here to access more information and a predict-o-gram template.

Affinity Diagram

An affinity diagram can be used as a pre-assessment strategy, an informal formative assessment, or as a way to brainstorm for a project, writing assignment, or presentation. The purpose of an affinity diagram is to help students sift through large volumes of data, to create opportunities for academic talk, to encourage new patterns of thinking, to problem-solve, and to work as a collective group to self-navigate through information.

First, students respond to a question or prompt provided by the teacher by placing their ideas on individual sticky notes or cards. One idea should be captured on each card. Students can use as many cards as they need. Next, students group items based on patterns or similarities. Some stickies may belong in two categories. Group consensus is imperative. Discussions ensure that promote synthesis, analyzing, and evaluation. Students then create an “identity” or title for each group. Students share their themes, big ideas, and understandings with the whole class. Finally, students generate hypotheses, generalizations, or predictions based on their affinity diagram.

Click here for a comprehensive explanation of affinity diagrams.

Quick Check Methods/Formative Assessment Strategies

Thumbs Strategy

Students give a thumbs up, thumbs to the side, or thumbs down to indicate their knowledge regarding a specific concept, vocabulary word, or question. This strategy provides immediate formative feedback for the teacher to make immediate modifications to instruction.

Fist to Five

Much like the “Thumbs Strategy,” students show the teacher a fist, one, two, three, four, or five fingers to indicate their level of knowledge regarding a specific concept, vocabulary word, or question. A fist would indicate an understanding of zero, and a five would indicate the ability to teach someone else the material. This strategy provides immediate formative feedback for the teacher to make immediate modifications to instruction or form groups.


Create or have students imagine a clothesline in your classroom that runs from one wall to another. You may choose to place a piece of tape on the floor to serve as your clothesline. Share with students that one end of the clothesline represents a complete lack of understanding of a concept, while the other side represents an amount of knowledge that would allow someone to teach another person about the concept. Then, ask students to gauge their own knowledge of a specific topic or concept and get up and move to the area on the clothesline that demonstrates “where they are now” in terms of understanding the concept. This kinesthetic formative assessment strategy is a nice transition strategy that provides immediate feedback. However, the teacher must have strong rules governing classroom movement, and the students and teacher must also have developed a sense of mutual trust.


Like clothesline, thumbs, and show me the fingers, this strategy works in the same manner. Students use their arms to create a physical speedometer. With arms overlapping, the top arm will raise to a level that indicates where the student’s understanding of a concept is at a specific time. If the student’s arms remain still and horizontal, then the student has no understanding (the speedometer is at zero). The more a student understands, the more he raises his top arm. Anything past a 90 degree angle demonstrates mastery of a concept.

The Muddiest Point

This technique provides feedback on what students find confusing or difficult about a lesson, concept, or topic. TMP can be used as a ticket out the door or as a quick formative check at any point during the class. The teacher simply asks the question, “What is the muddiest point in __? Students can write their responses, think-pair-share, or raise their hands to share with the whole group. (Ann Carlsen, M.Ed.)

Yes/No Cards

Students make a card with Yes (or Got It!) on one side, No (No Clue) on the other. Teachers ask introductory or review questions. Students who know the answer hold up the “yes” card, and students who do not know the correct answer hold up the “no” card. This strategy is very effective when introducing vocabulary words that students may need as a knowledge base for a unit of study. Additionally, the Yes/No Cards strategy can be implemented with little prep yet provides teachers with information needed to adjust instructional design. Variations: Red, Yellow, Green; Negative, Positive; J, L.

What Else?

This strategy is wonderful to help alleviate some of the anxiety students feel surrounding multiple-choice assessments and quizzes. At the completion of the test or quiz, the students are able write any additional information about the topic or concept that they want on the back of the quiz. Teachers can prompt students by writing a “What else?” question on the board. For instance, teachers could ask, “What do you know about the Underground Railroad that I did not ask about on the test?” This allows teachers to see what students are thinking about and what they valued from their learning experience.

+ Δ ?

After an lesson, reading, or activity, students complete the + Δ ?to share what they feel confident about, what they do not understand, and what questions they have. Teachers can use this strategy as an Exit Ticket, a Think-Pair-Share, or a formative assessment to inform instruction.

Be Sure To...

Immediately before an assignment, have students review models, rubrics, and/or other materials to support their work. Ask each student to write a "be sure to..." statement to share with the class. This is a great review before students start an assignment. Plus, teachers can gauge whether or not students have grasped the most important concepts or skills necessary to perform well on the assignment.

My Favorite No

Click here to watch a video describing this warm-up activity. The teacher hands out index cards to all students, gives 2 problems as a warm-up, and then collects the cards. She quickly sorts the cards by correct (yes) and incorrect (no). Once she has all of the cards sorted, she finds her favorite "no" or incorrect answer. She discusses with the class what the student did correct, and then eventually works her way to what was incorrect. This allows her to quickly collect data around what her students do and don't understand.

Reviewing, Summarizing, and Assessment Strategies

Self-Assessment Unit Goals

Use this self-assessment handout at the beginning, middle, or end of a unit to help students gauge their understanding of the learning targets and vocabulary as the unit progresses. You can revisit this handout several times, having students monitor their progress to each goal. Students will check off successes and use the self-assessment scale to assess where they are in terms of meeting each individual learning goal. Below you will find a template for your own work as well as an example of a Self-Assessment plan.

Example of a Self-Assessment Unit Plan on Energy

Template for your use

Graffiti Write

In graffiti write, students are provided a concept or topic and asked to write everything they know about a specific topic on chart paper, a white board, or other large sheet of paper. Their responses should look “graffiti-like.” Students should not write in straight lines or be forced to write in complete sentences. This is a brainstorming activity that can be used as a pre-assessment or a review. Teachers may opt to have students rotate through several stations and either add to or review the work of their peers. (See Gallery Walk.)

Gallery Walk

Gallery walks typically take place following a graffiti write or other activity where students produce work to be reviewed by peers. Students visit stations in the room where student work is displayed and then have the opportunity to add to the information provided or to assess the information. Students are given ownership of their learning and an opportunity to review, reflect, and respond. (See Graffiti Write)

Quick Writes

The Quick Write is an assessment strategy that is designed to give students the opportunity to reflect upon their learning. This writing assignment can be used at the beginning, middle, or end of a lesson and takes only about three to five minutes. Short, open-ended statements are usually given. For example, students are asked to write about what they learned, problems they encountered, what they liked (or did not like) about the lesson, and about how well they understood the concepts. In content teaching, the integration of reading and writing reinforces meaning construction as both activities use similar processing skills. (Designed for math classes, as math requires students to continually think at higher levels as one skill is achieved, another is introduced.)

Click here for some examples of Quick Writes.


Originally a Sheltered Instructional (SIOP) strategy, Conga gives students the opportunity to become experts about a subject, concept, or topic. To begin the Conga, students create two equal lines facing one another. One line becomes the “speaking” line, and the other line becomes the “listening” line. When the teacher poses a question to the class, the speaking line members look at the partner directly across from them and answer the question. The teacher chooses a time to say, “Conga,” and then the speaking line shifts one person to the right. The last person on the end shifts down to the other end of the line. The speaking line students then provide their answer to the same question to the next person in line. This continues until the teacher changes questions. Eventually, the listening line becomes the speaking line so that all students have an opportunity to be the expert and to be the listener. This activity is great for formative assessment as the teacher can monitor student responses. Follow up questions such as, “Which question was most difficult to answer?” or “What did you learn that you didn’t already know?” or “What is still confusing to you?” can make this formative process beneficial to students. Plus, this activity is a structured way to provide student movement in your classroom.

Inner/Outer Circle

This is a review strategy that is great for our kinesthetic learners. Students create an inner circle and an outer circle facing each other. The number of students in each should be the same. Students in the inner circle will hold a two-sided handout. On one side will be a vocabulary term, and on the other side is a definition. The inner circle students hold up the word to the person in the outer circle. On the teacher’s command, the person in the outer circle provides the definition to the person in the inner circle. The teacher can decide whether or not the inner circle person provides the correct definition if the student misses. The students in the outer circle rotate on the teacher’s command until they are back where they began. Then, the teacher can allow inner circle students to switch with outer circle participants. He/She can also ask questions about which words were not missed or missed often to gain information about how to support student mastery.


This Sheltered Instructional strategy promotes literacy by allowing students to evaluate vocabulary words and concepts, make educated choices, and summarize. Students read a text and choose the X number of words they find in the text, as specified by the teacher, they deem most important. Then, students must write a one to three sentence summary of their passage, using as many chosen words as possible. Teachers can vary this assignment in many ways to differentiate for all learners.

Exit Tickets

Also known as “Ticket out the Door,” this strategy also gauges student understanding of particular concepts, vocabulary words, Essential Questions, Clear Learning Targets etc. Specific questions or tasks are best to use with Exit Tickets. Although the teacher can create his/her own questions for Exit Tickets, here are some popular types of tickets:

+ Δ ?

After an lesson, reading, or activity, students complete the + Δ ?to share what they feel confident about, what they do not understand, and what questions they have. Teachers can use this strategy as an Exit Ticket, a Think-Pair-Share, or a formative assessment to inform instruction.

The Important Thing…

To gauge understanding of a particular concept, teachers can ask students to relate “the most important thing” about . Like + Δ ?,teachers can use this strategy as an Exit Ticket, a Think-Pair-Share, or a formative assessment to inform instruction.


The idea is to give students a chance to summarize key ideas and rethink them in order to focus on those that they are most intrigued by, and then pose a question that can reveal where their understanding is still uncertain. Often, teachers use this strategy in place of the usual worksheet questions on a chapter reading. When students come to class the next day, you're able to use their responses to modify your instruction. The students feel a sense of ownership because the discussion is based on the ideas they addressed in their 3-2-1.

Capture Your Thoughts

Capture students’ thoughts on four elements of your content of your choice. Use the template to ask students to respond to a passage, answer the Essential Question, list most important elements of a concept, list, or ask questions.

Capture your Thoughts Example 1

Capture your Thoughts Example 2

The Struble Technique

A few days before giving a major assessment, provide students with a copy of the test and a multiple-choice bubble sheet. Ask students to bubble “A” if they are 100% sure they can answer the question. Ask them to bubble “B” if they are not 100% sure they can respond correctly to the question. The teacher can disaggregate the data to create a plan to address student deficiencies. The teacher can also gauge his/her own instruction and evaluate where more/less time needs to be allotted when this concept is taught again.

Admit Slips

Admit Slips enable students to focus their attention on the reading and study planned for class by preparing responses, ideas, and questions that anticipate the reading for that day.

An Admit Slip should serve as a review and provide students an opportunity to provide their insight on a question or topic. Generally, a bell-ringer activity would follow the next day with a Think-Pair-Share activity or other activity where students would be able to share ideas on their Admit Slips. The teacher would have an opportunity to evaluate and clarify any misconceptions.

Click here for more on Admit Slips.

Connect Two

Connect Two invites students to share the relationship between two vocabulary words in one sentence. This is another strategy that can be differentiated based on the level of the particular needs of the student. In one model, the teacher can provide pairs of words that the student will use together to write a sentence that demonstrates not only an understanding of the words but also makes clear the relationship between the two words. In a more advanced model, students gain choice of words as they are provided a list of vocabulary words and then choose words to pair together to complete the same activity. This strategy focuses on comprehension, relationships, literacy, and fluency.

Click here to access two examples of Connect Two.

FIT Sheets

A F-I-T Sheet is an instrument that teachers use to assess reading comprehension, interpretive skills, and ability to make connections between content and real-life. Students share a (F) fact from their reading. The fact may be a passage, a summary or a portion of a reading, or a truth evident in an assignment. Then, the (I) interpret the significance of the fact. Students cannot choose a fact arbitrarily or there will be nothing to interpret. Finally, students write at (T) tie-in or connection to their own lives, history, or the real-world. Through these connections, our students become better readers and improve their literacy skills. (Nicholl, 1992)

Click here for an example.

What Else?

This strategy is wonderful to help alleviate some of that test anxiety students feel surrounding multiple-choice assessments. At the completion of the test, the students are able write any additional information about the topic that they want on the back of the test. Teachers can prompt students by writing a “What else?” question on the board. For instance, teachers could ask, “What do you know about the Underground Railroad that I did not ask about on the test?” This allows teachers to see what students are thinking about and what they valued from their learning experience.

“What I Know…” Sentences

Students are provided with one or two vocabulary words and instructed to write as many sentences as they can about their words in the time provided. These students share their sentences. The entire class listens and words together to add to the information provided by the expert group. The teacher can ask coaching questions to get more information, clarify misconceptions, and facilitate this student-generated discussion. This is a great activity to use as a review before an assessment. Good sentences can be used as extra credit items, test questions, etc.


A VoiceThread is an online slideshow (with images, documents, and/or video). Users can narrate with text, audio, or video and the VoiceThread can be shared with others. A great feature of VoiceThread is the capability for other users to comment on slides. There are various pricing options, including a free educator account.

Back to the Top

The tools used in this presentation have been helpful to some educators across the state. However, due to the rapidly changing digital environment, NCDPI does not represent nor endorse that these tools are the exclusive digital tools for the purposes outlined on this site.

Agenda > Differentiation and Data > Assessment Strategies > SMART Goals > Instructional Strategies and Results Indicators > Monitoring and Evaluating Results > Conclusion

**These activities were compiled by Heather Mullins, Chief Academic Officer for Newton-Conover City Schools. For the original professional development associated with these activities, please visit the activity on the Region 7 wikispace.