Assessment is the key component of any highly effective differentiated classroom. When describing the first steps to take in a teacher's differentiation journey, Carol Ann Tomlinson suggests beginning by simply studying your students and getting to know them better than you ever have before.

One way to effectively analyze student progress is by collecting continuous data via formative assessment strategies. Formative assessment is essential when addressing the needs of students with disabilities and English language learners. Often, students with diverse learning needs have gaps in their understanding of information and/or process new information in a unique way.

Formative assessment should be used to spot gaps in understanding so that the teachers can immediately address the students' needs. Check out a few of my favorite assessment strategies and technology tools that provide students various opportunities to demonstrate their mastery on learning targets.

Low-prep assessment strategies


This reciprocal questioning technique was designed by Marzano to teach students to ask and answer questions while they read. After reading a paragraph together, the teacher asks students higher-order questions (each must respond to a partner, write the answer down on sticky note or be ready to be called on). Then, another paragraph or page is read.

Students then ask the teacher questions about what has been read. This can be done in partners or as a class. Challenge students to use higher-order, open-ended questions. Be sure to provide visual question stems and model how to ask higher-order questions.


After learning, students create four questions about their learning and distribute them to four different students. Those students answer the questions and return them to the original author. The author now evaluates the answers for accuracy.

Represent your Thinking

Choose 5-8 various objects (shoe, cup, tape, rock, etc.). Place items around the room and have students walk to the object that best represents their thinking on the main idea, lesson or concept. Have students discuss why the object is the best representation of their thinking.

Challenge students to use at least three buzz and vocabulary words that are connected to the lesson.

Technology assessment tools


Screencastify is a free Chrome browser extension. It's easy to use, save to your Google Drive and share. To download the extension, visit their website.

Students can summarize their learning by snagging screenshots of their computers and recording videos of themselves explaining the concept, process or content creation. Visit this 3-minute video tutorial to get started.


Recap is like a "Twitter educational chat, but safe for students and augmented by the power of video." It is a free and easy-to-use assessment resource (available on the web or through an iPad app).

The tech tool lets students respond to the teachers' questions or prompts via video, creating rigorous empowering discussions. Visit to get started and view a tutorial step-by-step video. Teachers can create questions or tasks and students can record themselves and share their learning


Flipgrid is a video discussion platform that teachers can use to post topics, spark discussion and assess student learning. After teachers create topics, the student community builds a dialogue as they share short video responses.

It's great for formative assessment, and builds student engagement and higher-order thinking when grids are created around application across multiple disciplines. Common Sense Education has a whole page dedicated to practical usage of Flipgrid.

Need to see assessment strategies in action? Check out this link to watch a quick 5-minute video from the Teaching Channel on how a teacher uses exit tickets to inform her instruction and plan a differentiated lesson.

Have fun and be novel! Utilize a variety of formative assessment strategies for students to demonstrate their "smarts" using various modalities and product options. Move beyond just paper-and-pencil assessments and provide a multitude opportunities to use technology, show creative expression and higher-order thinking options.