Formative Assessment in #PhysEd

Have you ever stopped to think about why you use formative assessment in your physical education classes?

Perhaps you use formative assessment, assessment that occurs during the learning process, to provide your students feedback. Maybe you use it to improve or guide your teaching. Formative assessments can also be used to motivate students and increase student engagement.

Here are some of the reasons why I use formative assessment in my classes:

1) Formative assessment provides me with the information I need to determine what my students know and understand. I feel it is my responsibility to assess the cognitive domain. What can my students recall from a lesson? What do they understand? Can they apply the strategies learned in one activity to another? Can they create solutions for challenging problems?

2) Formative assessment allows me to reflect upon my teaching practices. Was the lesson I taught today effective? Did my students learn what I wanted them to learn? Is there anything I need to re-teach, revise, or [drat!] never teach again?

3) Formative assessment gives me the opportunity to teach my students content that is directly linked to Standard 2 from the National PE Standards. Standard 2 states, “The physically literate individual applies knowledge of concepts, principles, strategies and tactics related to movement and performance.” The content that falls under Standard 2 is by far my favorite to teach. I teach middle school students, who are ready to apply tactics and strategies in small-sided games. It’s one thing to watch my students play a game, but it’s equally important to find out what they know about those tactics and strategies.

4) Formative assessment holds my students accountable for their learning. Since making the switch to standards-based instruction and assessment, and implementing pre-planned formative assessments, student engagement in my classes has dramatically improved. All of my students participate in class. All of my students bring their tennis shoes and dress out. All of my students have a smile on their face. All of my students are able to turn in Post-it notes and index cards with detailed, meaningful responses to my questions. Teachers in other subject areas ask, “Wait, the students in your class sometimes use a pencil and paper?” “Yep,” I respond, “and they learn, too!”

What do I mean by pre-planned formative assessments? These are the assessments I create prior to class. I usually write questions on a dry-erase board, and my students write their responses on Post-it notes or index cards. The questions always meet the National Standards and Grade-Level Outcomes. I really enjoy sharing my pre-planned formative assessment ideas and student responses on Twitter, and the feedback I have received has been very positive, so I thought it would be helpful to share some of them here:

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I would love to read about the pre-planned formative assessments you use in your classes, as well as the spontaneous, off-the-cuff phrases you say to your students to measure their growth.

23 Comments on “Formative Assessment in #PhysEd

  1. Great post Sarah! Your program sounds like a model of top notch teaching practices. I also appreciate you sharing your quick formative assessment samples. Thanks!

  2. Super post! I just moved up to Middle School. It seems there are numerous excellent elementary internet resources. If you know of other internet resources geared to middle school I’d appreciate hearing about them.

    • In my opinion, the best middle school resources can be found through Twitter. I also really like for TGfU activities. Thanks for checking out my post!

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  4. Great information!!!

    I will start as PE Coach for a new charter school K-6 next August 2015. We are in the process of selecting a curriculum for our PE program. Which one would you recomend?


    • Hi Francisco,
      In my opinion, physical education programs do not need to purchase a curriculum in order to provide students quality physical education. I believe that the curricula available for purchase in the United States are not curricula, but are supplemental documents that teachers can use when creating lessons and assessments. For example, “I need to teach ___. Maybe my binder from _____ has an awesome game I could use!”

      Some school districts create their own curriculum documents. Some are incredibly detailed, others provide basic guidelines for teachers to follow. I currently use the National PE Standards and grade-level outcomes to guide my instruction. Using them allows me to determine exactly what I want my students to know, be able to do, and understand by the end of the school year.

      Curricula documents vary. Some states have their own. Some districts have their own. In Canada, there are provincial curricula documents, which are designed to help teachers give their students a similar experience throughout the specific province.

      I hope this information helps! Thanks for asking!


    • SPARK is a great curriculum but OPEN Phys Ed is fantastic and it is free!

    • Hi Francisco Avila, the PE program that I used for our school district was “SPARK”, it is easy to follow, and it meets the standards that are required, there are many fun games for all the ages, K-6.

  5. Thank you! I really like the idea of using the whiteboard with sticky notes for student responses. Also, isn’t it great that twitter has become such a great resource!?

  6. Hi Sarah,
    Thanks for sharing these great examples of formative assessment. I was just curious to the weighting (if any) the formative pieces hold for students final grade/level for the unit?

    Thanks again,

  7. Hey Blake, thanks for reading this post and asking your question!

    Formative assessments occur while the students are still learning, so they are not graded. They help drive the teacher’s instruction, give the students a chance to show or explain what they know (and don’t know), and provide students and teachers an opportunity to reinforce certain ideas or concepts.

    It is best practice (in every content area) to never grade formative assessments.

  8. Love these ideas, Sarah. What do you do with the Post-It notes after you’ve read them? Just trying to think of the logistics of collecting all those for each class and keeping track of them. Do you read and then throw out? Thanks for such great ideas!

    • Hi Diane! Here are some of the things I do with Post-it notes (or index cards): 1) I make sure to use a different color in each class, so when I get home at night I don’t mix them up. 2) I put them in a Ziploc bag to take them home. 3) Sometimes I write feedback on them (it depends on the topic). 4) I make notes for myself about concepts my students are really getting or things I need to re-teach. 5) I take pictures of some of the responses. 6) I recycle all of them (unless I’ve written feedback on them). 3×3 inch Post-it notes are the perfect size for my middle school students!

      • Thanks Sarah. I’m going to try this during my upcoming badminton unit. I love to hear ideas from other middle school teachers and there aren’t many of us online, at least that I can find!

      • I read Evernote’s blog post. I love using Evernote, but don’t think it would work well in this instance. From what I understand, I would have to take a picture of each Post-It note every day. That would take quite a bit of time and I don’t think the result would be extremely useful. I’m not sure how to organize it all. Tag each one with the child’s name so that I could see all the notes by that child at the same time when searching? Hmm, I’ll have to think more about this.

  9. Diane, are you on Twitter? I could help connect you to other MS #PhysEd teachers.

    Joey, I have not used Evernote, but think this idea is brilliant. The one device I always have with me is my iPhone, which would make it very easy to capture images of my students’ responses.

    Diane, I don’t think a picture of every Post-it note is necessary. We could save specific responses…answers we want to share with the class…answers we want to keep for the future…answers that we wish were just a little bit better.

    • Sarah – that sounds like a great idea! I’ll try it. Yes, I’m on twitter @MsOlliffe PE. I found you and your blog that way. 🙂 Thanks for the help connecting with other MS.

  10. Sarah, I teach the younger grades. At the present time I only discuss the lesson with them. I do not give a formal assessment. I would love to discuss with you different ways for me to implement formal assessment with this 5-8 age group. How would you go about implementing formal assessments with the kindergarten classes with a 30 minute period? How would you set up the paper, markers etc.

    • Hi Sophia! I shared your question with Collin Brooks (@CollinBrooksie). He teaches elementary PhysEd and I knew he would have a great response for you! Here are the ideas Collin shared:
      1) In Oregon (where he teaches), he does not have to formally assess his kindergarten students.
      2) He looks at their locomotor, non-locomotor, and manipulative skills, scaffolds his lessons to meet the needs of every student, and makes sure all of his students understand the basic skills that are developmentally appropriate for their specific age.
      3) You should investigate using Plickers to conduct formative assessments with ages 5-8!
      4) We would both like to encourage you to create rubrics—that are directly linked to specific grade-level otucomes—that each have 3-4 critical elements. You can use the rubrics to assess your students and then revisit the elements that need to be re-taught.

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  12. Sarah,

    This has been an absolutely fabulous read. I am currently seeking my bachelor’s in Secondary Edu with physical education as my major. When doing all my practicum hours at our local middle schools none of this assessment is taking place. I love how you ask for feedback and your students understanding of what they are learning with each unit, and that grading is not from your assessment rather for your own knowledge as to what your students know or don’t and what you can do to make improvements.

    Thank you!
    Autumn Doyle

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