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Formative Assessment and the Common Core

The following is the learning objective that I would like to focus on: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL1.4 which is to “Identify words and phrases in stories or poems that suggest feelings or appeal to the senses.” Stated in my own words, this objective means that students will develop an understanding of language such as adjectives as well as simple similes and metaphors that are used in poetry to convey meaning.

Strategy 1  Key Questions about Similes and Metaphors

One type of formative assessment would be to have the students watch a brainpop jr video about similes and metaphors and then complete a quiz about the video which details how similes and metaphors are formed and why poets use them. The language in the video is graded and the content is appropriate for grade 1 learners. In fact, brainpop jr. was specifically designed for grade 1 and 2 students.  With each video are series of online key words, quizzes, activities, games and follow up activities which the students can engage with autonomously and return to review at their own pace.


Students could sit at computers and watch the video and then complete the quiz online. After completing the quiz, the teacher could then record the students’ scores and then suggest follow up activities on the website for students who struggled to understand the concept of simile and metaphor.

Rosen (2009) has provided evidence for the notion that online learning environments like brainpop are not only useful in terms of improving students’ performance on assessments but also serve as a source of motivation for students enabling them to feel that they have a more central role in the learning process.

Strategy 2  Draw It

In terms of assessing students understanding of simile and metaphor, I believe the “draw it” strategy would be ideal. This would take place after students have understood the concepts of similes and metaphors. This would be a quick way for a teacher to circulate around the classroom and determine if the students were able to grasp the concepts of similes and metaphors. For example, the teacher could read a poem, highlight the similes, adjectives or other key expressions and have students draw a picture based on what they hear. The teacher could then elicit ideas from students about their pictures in order to ascertain whether or not the students have understood the poem.

This type of formative assessment is useful for two reasons:

  1. It appeals to grade 1 students as it gives them tools to express themselves even if they do not have the necessary language skills to articulate ideas. The aforementioned is especially true for non-native speakers of English at primary level.
  2. This type of assessment appeals to students who may benefit from different learning styles in the classroom such as kinesthetic and visual learners.

Strategy 3 New Clothes (Write a simile or metaphor about your favorite weather)

This type of assessment could be implemented after students have demonstrated a passive understanding of language that demonstrates appeal to senses or feelings. Using the concept of “new clothes” would require students to demonstrate their knowledge of similes and metaphors through writing and creating their own simile or metaphor.

The idea is that the students would use their newly gained understanding of similes to write a simile based on a topic that hasn’t been discussed in class; namely, they would have to write a sentence in which they used a simile or metaphor to describe their favorite kind of weather (e.g. A sunny day is chocolate cake!) The students would have to let the teacher know if he or she wrote a simile or metaphor. This would allow the teacher to determine whether or not the student has understood the concept.

Allowing the students to write their own simile or metaphor also allows for differentiation by task in the lesson such that each student could work from his or her own ability and interests thus increasing learner motivation and the likelihood that the final product will be the best demonstration of the students’ ability.

Finally, I am a firm believer in developing learner autonomy and I believe the activities above enable students to develop autonomously.

Developing autonomy in a classroom setting implies that the learner will take the initiative to gain insight into the process of acquiring knowledge and being able to control him or herself throughout the process. Benson (2001) defines autonomy as “the capacity to take control over one’s learning” (p. 110).  To my mind, taking initiative is a prerequisite for controlling one’s learning. When learners decide that they want to actively direct their own learning, they are, in effect, on the path to becoming more autonomous. Thus, the decision to become autonomous largely rests with our students. However, we as teachers can create learning environments conducive to the development of learner autonomy.

Control in the classroom manifests itself in the learner’s “learning behavior, learning situation, and cognitive processes” when dealing with classroom tasks (p. 50). As a result, autonomy is a process that directly manifests itself at several levels of the human experience, ranging from the conscious and unconscious to the real as well as what is perceived to be real. Learners must take control of their mental (e.g. higher cognitive processes), emotional (e.g. preparedness to overcome setbacks and fatigue), and physical aspects (e.g. posture when studying) to gain a foothold over their learning.

In the case of the assessments above, they all require students to be in control of the rate of learning as well as control when the assessment starts and finishes thus enabling students to engage the tasks independently. For example, in the first formative assessment, students start the video, complete the supplementary activities and take the quiz when they are ready. In the second quiz, differentiation and creativity are provided for in that students have the freedom to draw a picture based on their interpretation of what was said. In the final activity, the learner uses his or her creativity to apply what they’ve learned to demonstrate their understanding of the key concepts of the lesson.



Benson, P. (2001). Autonomy in language learner. Pearson: Essex

Bynom, A. (2003). Empowering the learner and all that rubbish. Karen’s Lingusitic Issues, April

Retrieved December 27, 2006, from http’//www3.telus.net/linguisticsissues/rubbish             html. [Paper originally presented at the TESOL Arabia Conference 2003]

Csikszentmihayi, M. (1996). Intrinsic motivation and effective teaching: A flow analysis. In J.      Bess (Ed.), Teaching well and liking it: Motivating faculty to teach effectively (pp. 72-89).          Baltimore MD: John Hopkins University Press.

Dam, L., & Little, D. (1998). Learner autonomy: what and why? TLT Online. Retrieved April 6th,            2008, from http://langue.hyper.chubu.ac.jp/jalt/pub/tlt/98/nov/littledam.html.

Deci, E., Kasser, T., & Richard, M. R. (1996). Self-determined teaching: Opportunities and         obstacles. In J Bess, (Ed.), Teaching well and liking it: Motivating faculty to reach           effectively (pp. 57-71).

Krishnamurti, J. (2000). Educating the educator. Parabola. 25, (3), 85-89.

Rosen, Y. (2009). The effects of an animation-based on-line learning environment on transfer of knowledge and on motivation for science and technology learning. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 40(4), 451-467.

Thanasoulas, D. (2002). What is learner autonomy and how can it be fostered? Karen’s     Linguistic Issues, December 2002. Retrieved April 6th, 2008, from       http://www3.telus.net/linguisticsissues/learnerautonomy.html.

Senge, P. et al (2000). Schools that learn. NY: Doubleday. [Chap. 1,2,3 (pp. 5-22), I (pp. 59-        100), XII-I, 6 (pp. 411-417, 446-452), XVI, 5(pp. 552-553).]

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