Turn Cell Phones into a Tool for Formative Assessment

By Kim

Even though cell phones can lead to problems in the classroom, the reality is that they are here to stay.  If your school policy allows it, turn cell phones into a tool for formative assessment with Polleverywhere.com! Additionally, teachers can create polls which allow students to provide their responses on computers via the Internet.  Using “live audience participation,” educators can use this website to engage their students and incorporate technology into their lessons.  For K-12 educators, it’s free to use and there are a variety instructional uses.

For many students in the United States, they will soon be expected to demonstrate their learning on the upcoming Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) Assessments.  A new question format that students will confront is the Evidence-Based Selected Response (EBSR) item.  These are two-part questions, one traditional selected-response item that is followed by the EBSR, which asks students to show the text evidence that led them to the answer in the first item.

No matter whether your students will face PARCC assessments, EBSRs encourage them to employ Close Reading for their learning, so it is an effective question format to try with your classes.  For instance, many students read the classic, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  Here is an example for how a teacher could use a poll to assess her students’ understanding of a character.


PollEverywhere screenshot

In the novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout may be described as being innocent.  Which quotation from the book best supports this description of Scout?

Answer selections:

 “I told Atticus I didn’t feel very well and didn’t think I’d go to school any more if it was all  right with him”  (16)

  “I leaped off the steps and ran down the catwalk. It was easy to collar Francis. I said take it back quick.” (45)

 “ ‘Don’t you remember me, Mr. Cunningham? I’m Jean Louise Finch…I go to school with Walter.’ ” (153)

“I could see nothing in Mayella’s expression to justify Atticus’s assumption that he had secured her wholehearted cooperation.”  (175)

Click to see an example of this poll.

An advantage to using a poll is that students text their answers anonymously (but are limited to one response). This allows the teacher to check for student understanding and provides practice for students.  Because it’s not intended as a graded assignment, students may feel more comfortable responding honestly and learning from their errors.

Here is another way that I used a poll in my classroom:  After identifying a quote which exemplified a theme from the book, Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison, students texted their level of agreement with the ideas in the quote.  This lead to a four-corners activity and discussion of their reasons.  No doubt, a poll could be used for any anticipation guide activity.  Best of all, these activities meet expectations for multiple Common Core English Language Arts Standards!


Kim is a secondary English teacher and provides great lessons at her TpT store. She can also be contacted at teacherkgpatrick(at)gmail(dot)com.

4 thoughts on “Turn Cell Phones into a Tool for Formative Assessment

  1. Great ideas here for keeping current at secondary – Kim. I remember addressing a conference in London – where all the techies stood along the back lost in their devices. As I entered the room and saw this I began to ask the kinds of questions you answered brilliantly here! Thanks!

    Until faculty get more current, we cannot expect secondary students to become our currency. Both happen symbiotically in your post! Best, Ellen

    • Thanks, Ellen! I used to do the cell phone battle in my classroom, but after I received my own smart phone, I realized that it was just a mini-computer. Since we do not have the best technology where I teach, the students’ phones provide a way for them to use technology when needed. Ultimately, I think it’s now up to educators to teach students to use their cell phones and other electronic devices responsibly. Kim@OCBeachTeacher

  2. Pingback: Technology Post Round-Up |

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