Formative Assessment

Assess your TK students’ academic and social-emotional development

Formative assessment helps you determine your students’ academic and social-emotional development on an ongoing basis and is well-aligned with developmentally appropriate Transitional Kindergarten (TK) instruction. As a TK teacher, you plan activities to stimulate exploration and learning that provide multiple opportunities each day to observe emerging learning. TK provides a unique opportunity to embed assessment in daily instruction in a playful, low-stress setting, which will, in turn, help you sequence future instruction to provide the next instructional step for each child.

A Suggested Process:

  1. Identify an assessment goal. Decide which students you need to assess and what you want to know about their progress.
  2. Identify an opportunity within your daily instruction to gather the information.
  3. Reflect on the evidence. Identify gaps between your students’ current performance and expected goals. Also, note students who are performing well above and/or beyond expectations.
  4. Consider next steps. Decide how you will use this information to adjust your instruction.
  5. Encourage student involvement in recognizing and celebrating their learning. Promote your students’ engagement in and reflection about what they are learning by asking them to share what they learn each day and encouraging them to take pride in their accomplishments. Consider how you might provide productive feedback to build confidence.
Formative Assessment Opportunities - TKCalifornia Early Learning - Formative Assessment - TKCalifornia

Examples of Lesson Embedded Formative Assessment Opportunities

Any activity or lesson component can become an assessment opportunity if we change the lens through which we view the activity. The following information demonstrates how teachers might shift from instruction to formative assessment in the course of a short, focused lesson. Note that many of the shifts to a formative assessment lens promote active engagement.

Instructional Lens:

Assessment Lens:

Using Key Early Learning Documents to Plan Formative Assessment

The State of California provides two documents, California Preschool Learning Foundations, Vols. 1-3 and The Alignment of the California Preschool Learning Foundations with Key Early Education Resources, that provide support for teachers as they use formative assessment. Several specific examples are cited below.

Examples from Preschool Learning Foundations

When embedded in instruction, each behavior in the examples below can present opportunities for formative assessment observations or interactions and provide information to inform instruction.

Note: All examples below refer to 60 month Preschool Learning Foundations.

Self 2.1 | Self-Regulation

Formative Assessment: You make a note that a student who often struggles with self-regulation during clean-up sees that you are preparing to signal a transition, and alerts their peers that it is time to clean up.

Vocabulary 2.3 | Understand and use simple and complex words to describe relationships

Formative Assessment: After a lesson on conceptual relationships, you assess students’ knowledge of relationships by asking them to identify classroom objects that are larger than another selected object.

Algebra and Functions 2.1 | Recognize and duplicate simple repeating patterns

Formative Assessment: After whole or small group patterning instruction, use counters/markers of three different colors to check a student’s ability to pattern. Lay out two repetitions of a simple pattern (red, blue, green, red, blue, green, __) and see if they are able to identify the next color from the three choices.

Formative Assessment – Preschool Learning Foundations – TKCalifornia

Example from the Alignment of the Preschool Learning Foundations with Key Early Learning Resources

The Alignment of the California Preschool Learning Foundations with Key Early Learning Resources may also provide guidance as you identify possible formative assessment opportunities. The Preschool Learning Foundations lead to the acquisition of Kindergarten Common Core State Standards (see example below). The “Related Activity” section provides a sample activity designed to bridge the Preschool Learning Foundations and the Kindergarten Common Core State Standards.

Preschool Learning Foundation

Kindergarten Common Core State Standard

Related Activity: During group time, the teacher reads a story about cooperation and leads a short, but engaging discussion about “What If” situations related to cooperation and sharing.

Possible Actions:

Formative Assessment in the TK/K Combination Classroom

In your teaching toolbox, formative assessment is a powerful instrument for planning differentiated instruction for children spanning various learning levels in a combination classroom. Combination class teachers prepare TK children for successfully meeting or exceeding challenging Kindergarten standards, while simultaneously preparing their Kindergarten students for success in 1st grade. Formative assessment provides the information you need to monitor progress, adjust daily instruction to meet ongoing needs, and differentiate instruction to ensure that all children meet or exceed their grade level expectations.

Formative Assessment and Dual Language Learners

Culturally and linguistically responsive assessment and instruction is critical to the success of all your students, especially Dual Language Learners (DLLs). There are important steps you can take as a TK teacher to ensure that your assessment materials, prompts, and questions are appropriate for each child given their linguistic and cultural background. When you work to ensure that instruction and assessments are responsive to each student’s background, formative assessment will play a critical role in supporting content learning and language development in your young DLLs.1

For more information on culturally and linguistically formative assessment of DLLs, visit the Assessment page on the Multilingual Learning Toolkit website.

Formative Assessment and Response to Intervention/Special Needs Children

“Effective behavior management is not separate from academic instruction, but rather, is an essential skill set taught during tier one core instruction.”

Source: RtI2’s Implementation and Technical Assistance Guide for Districts and Schools

Response to Intervention (RTI) is a multi-tier process that guides both general and special education staff as they identify and provide appropriate support for students who may need instructional and/or behavioral support. The RTI process begins with high-quality instruction, universal screening, and differentiated instruction within the general education classroom. At all tiers or levels, student progress is closely monitored to assess the student’s individual response to intervention.

California’s RtI2 is well aligned with the general goals of TK.

1 Espinosa, Curriculum and Assessment Considerations for Young Children from Culturally, Linguistically, and Economically Diverse Backgrounds, 2005; Where We Stand on Assessing Young English Language Learners, NAEYC 2009; Abedi, Jamal. Linguistic factors in the assessment of English Language Learners. In The Sage Handbook of Measurement. (2010) Sage Publishing, Thousand Oaks, CA, p. 129-157.