Formative assessment in Key stage one

For all you NQTs here are some key strategies that I have used in Key stage one to promote formative assessment;

  • Questioning
  • Self assessment



When working with the older children Formative assessment can be achieved in many ways in the classroom.   A key strategy that I have found to be crucial to promote effective assessment is Questioning. This can be achieved through posing open ended questions for pupils to reflect and ‘deepen learning’ (Stiggins et al 2004).  We then listen to the children’s answers and use this to assess their understanding and level of knowledge.  For formative assessment to be achieved effectively through questioning ‘ more effort has to be spent in framing development of students understanding’ (Black et al , 2003).

 My Steps on how to use questioning for assessment

1)       Plan key questions (both open ended and closed)

2)      Ask these questions when teaching (make sure you make a list before of the specific children that you want to target)

3)      Probe various kind of reasoning to support the children

4)      Encourage the students to respond

5)      Assess the children’s answers and make notes as children are responding

Talk partners and Group discussions are also other strategies that can be used to encourage questioning and can be also used effectively to support assessment.

Self -assessment

Formative assessment on many occasions will involve teacher and pupil dialogue.  However when teaching it is also  important  to provide pupils with the opportunity to monitor, assess and evaluate their own learning. Self- assessment is a great way to promote Formative  assessment as it allows the teacher to‘ ‘examine’ the pupils’ ability to  assess their own work, identifying their strengths and weaknesses ( Black  et al 2003).  This also improves assessment as ‘students  are required to think about their own learning, articulate and understand what they need to learn’ ( Black  et al 2003).

Strategies  that I have used in the classroom to promote self- assessment are;

–           Purple pen

–           Traffic light system

–           Thumbs up and thumbs down

Purple pen – (used at the start  or in the middle of a lesson)

In my years of experience purple pen is a great technique which encourages children to self- assess their own work. It is a strategy which can be used in Key stage one and requires children to read and respond to feedback. The teacher will often mark the pupil’s work and respond by pointing out any misconceptions or mistakes.   The teacher also will write a  moving comment which is often to challenge the child’s learning.  For example  when I marked a pupil’s maths work which was on identifying number bonds to ten, the pupil had accurately identified them, so I  wrote  “Can you identify any number bonds to 20?” as a moving on comment. I can point out that moving on comments must be something that the child is capable of achieving.

Steps on how to use Purple Pen for assessment

1)       Mark the children’s work and assess their understanding. For any misunderstandings  write a next step comment using a coloured pen (not purple)

2)       At the start of the next lesson before the children start a new piece of work get the children to look at the last piece of work you marked. Ask children to respond to the feedback using a purple pen e.g. fill in missing full stops, missing words etc.  (some children may need support, such as younger children who may not be fluent at reading)

3)      As the children are doing this walk around the classroom and assess children on how they self – assess their own work

Traffic light system (used at the end of the lesson)

The traffic light system is a something which is used when children assess how well or not so well they have understood the task. This is a strategy which can be used in both the foundation years and in Key stage one and two.  There are three colours which children must use

Green: I have understood the learning objective

Yellow: I’m not sure if I have understood the learning objective

Red :  I have not achieved the learning objective yet

Steps on how to use it in your lesson (Key stage one and two)

 1)      At the end of the lesson stop the children

2)     Remind the children of the learning objective for the lesson which you should have pointed out at the start and displayed on the IWB

3)     Tell them to choose a coloured pen to traffic light their work


 Steps on how to use it in your lesson (foundation years)

1)       Place a card on the table with the different traffic light colours

2)      Start a focus activity with the children pointing out the learning objective

3)      Then significantly via the traffic light card as the children try to identify a colour which represents how they feel and how they are doing at a particular point within the lesson.

Note that this is a good technique, however there are some children, especially those who are confident who may at times ‘over estimate their achievement whilst less confident children regularly underestimated their attainment’ ( Clarke: 2013   ).  There are ways of resolving this issue such as encouraging children to discuss whether they have met the objective with a partner allowing there to be a second person’s opinion.



In my opinion I have found that pupil feedback is a vital tool which can be used to assess children’s learning as it has a positive impact on raising pupils academic achievement (Dann;2012) .

Advantages of using pupil feedback for assessment

  • Enables students to recognise their target.
  • Provides students with an overview about how well their work matches their intended goal.
  • Helps students to understand how to close the gap between their goal and current performance.
  • Motivate pupils as the feedback will look at the strengths and qualities of the pupil’s work.
  • Highlights the areas which need to be improved
  • Helps pupils to understand the next steps and how to take them

Click here to read  research on the benefits on pupil feedback!

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