I've heard a lot of arguments against formative assessment. To be honest, I think they are lame. Formative assessment is important, it is necessary, and we need the information we get from it to guide our students and our next steps.
How often should I give formative checks?
How often should you check on student understanding? I would argue that you need to do this as often as they need. I check with students on a warm-up, at multiple times during the hour, and at the end of class. I even continue to check in on them when I see them on campus and ask them questions about stuff in German (the classes I teach.) Formative checks do not need to be formal, it can be as simple as a question as you are moving around the room and talking to individual students.
To Grade or not to Grade?
Honestly, I side with Alice Keeler (www.alicekeeler.com) on this one. Don't grade formative assessments. They exist to see where students are at. You cannot punish students when you are checking for understanding and they don't get it. What you can do, though, is give them another go at it, and continue to do it until they do get it. Kids like the feedback and opportunity to correct their mistakes. Simply telling them it's wrong and not giving them a change to fix it does absolutely nothing for them.
What if they aren't getting it and I need to move on?
If students aren't getting the material, are we to just move on and let those who have trouble continue to struggle because we need to meet pacing guides? OK, sometimes they won't get it and we do need to move on. How have I solved this? I continue to put that material into my formative checks until I get 100% correct from all of them. Even then, I continue to throw out questions that connect prior learning and make the students think about the big picture not just in the section we are currently studying.
As a German teacher, I have students that will always struggle with the indirect object. No matter what, they still have a hard time conceptualizing it and putting it into practice. I never give up on it though. I always throw it back into teaching and students have to connect with the prior learning. I'll reinforce it forever.
Technology to help with formative assessment:
Technology doesn't make a good teacher. It helps make a good teacher better. There are a lot of great tools out there to help us gather data and measure success. However, we cannot simply use tools for the sake of using them because they are technology. Pllicks and Kahoot, two awesome tools, are not so useful unless we actually can use the data we get from them to guide the next steps. My kids love using them but I use them sparingly and to measure if they are getting it. Those that don't are paired up with others to help guide them along or they get more one-on-one teaching to help them with the concepts.
Never forget why we need to use formative assessment: