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September 1, 2015

6 Brain-Based Learning Strategies to Use in Formative Assessments

Formative (ungraded) assessments may vary in style, but they always share the same, important goals: gather data on student progress and develop an understanding about what students know. As you plan your formative assessments for the new school year, it’s important to also consider implementing a variety of brain-based learning (BBL) techniques in order to most effectively engage students’ brains.

Check out this list of formative assessment BBL best practices to get started!

  1. Use a variety of learning styles

There isn’t one right way to learn, so formative assessments should give students plenty of options to show what they know. Here are some examples of multi-modal formative assessments:

  • Have students act out the path taken by the blood through the circulatory system (Science)
  • Have students write journal entries while pretending to be a Revolutionary War soldier and explain the battle’s reasons and consequences (History)
  • Set up the classroom as a coordinate grid system, then play “I Spy” using coordinates (Math)
  1. Keep it interesting

The more creative assessments are the more likely students will remember the content. Music improves memory and it’s fun, so ask students to write a rap about the parts of speech (ELA), or, like in this awesome student video, a song about fractions (Math).

  1. Provide quick feedback

Feedback on formative assessments doesn’t need to be time consuming. During assessment activities, circle the room and provide feedback on the spot, or schedule short interviews with students to discuss their progress and put them on the right track.

  1. Promote a safe, engaging learning environment

When students are comfortable with their peers and their teacher, they are more receptive to learning, less hesitant to demonstrate understanding, and more engaged. You can help by modeling respectful behavior with your students at all times and establishing classroom rules and guidelines that create a fair, supportive classroom environment.

  1. Feed and water your students’ brains

Well-fed kids learn more than hungry ones. Our brains use at least 20% of the energy we ingest, so making sure your students are well nourished is a necessity. For some great tips about the best brain foods for your students, click here.

  1. Match your formative and summative assessments

Summative assessments are intimidating, so give your students practice during your low-risk formative assessments. Here are some examples:

  • Have students stand up beside their desk (instead of remaining seated) to respond to a question if they will be assessed by speeches or presentations
  • Ask students to correct grammar in a Word document if they will be assessed digitally in ELA
  • Use compare-contrast charts in science instead of Venn diagrams, which are rarely used on summative assessments
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