Simple Formative Assessment with Plickers

Simple Formative Assessment

Formative assessment has become easier with the introduction of so many engaging formative apps and websites. I remember my enthusiasm years ago when I got a set of small whiteboards and markers. I passed one out to each student so that they could write their answers and hold them up as I asked questions. Plickers takes this idea into the digital age — and greatly improves upon it.  Plickers provides many of the features found in today’s best formative assessment technologies, but students don’t need technology in their hands.  Teachers just need a computer, a mobile device (smartphone or tablet), and a printout for each student.

Simple Formative Assessment - PlickersHow it Works

Teachers print an answer card for each student.  Each card has a unique pattern on it and is numbered so that you can assign cards to students (i.e. Card 23 = Nick LaFave). The four sides of the cards are labeled A, B, C, or D in small font. The small font is a feature to prevent students from looking around the room to see other students’ answer choices.

Teachers display a multiple-choice or true/false question on the board.  Students hold their cards up with the side that is labeled with the correct answer choice towards the top.  Teachers scan the cards with a camera-like app and collect assessment data in real-time.

Getting Started with Plickers


Teachers create a free account at Teachers also need to download the free app for iOS or Android. Navigating the Plickers site is easy using the four choices at the top:

  • Library (Create questions, and save them for future use.)Plicker for Teachers
  • Reports (Review assessment data.)
  • Classes (Create classes and add students.)
  • Live View (Where the magic happens.)

Create Classes

Selecting the Classes from the top menu prompts you to create a class by entering a Class Name, Year (grade), Subject, and selecting a class color.  Students can be added to classes one at a time, or you can copy and paste your roster by clicking “Add a Roster.” In a hurry? You can skip adding a roster and just use student card numbers.Create Classes - Plickers

Write Questions

The Library is were you’ll write your questions. Create a Question - Plickers

  1. Type your question in the text box.  You can also add an image.
  2. Select Multiple Choice or True/False
  3. Enter up to four answer choices and indicate the correct answer.
  4. If you have less than four choices, click on the X beside each unused answer choice to delete it.
  5. Save your question.

Print Student Answer Cards

Click on “Cards” on the top right side of the screen, and select a card set to print. Cards sets are available in Standard (40 cards) or Expanded (63 cards). Standard sized cards are perfect for most classrooms (printing two cards per sheet of paper). Large cards (printed as a full-sized sheet of paper) are available for larger settings and lecture halls.  You can also select to print the answer choices in a larger font, but I don’t recommend this unless it’s necessary (more on this later).

You can use the same cards for multiple classes, or print multiple copies of the set. Plickers Card Students are assigned to the cards when you select your classes to present questions. Printing on white paper is recommended for best results. I did have some difficulty when I printed a set on a printer that was low on toner. Higher contrast makes scanning the cards easier.  I’ve known several teachers to print these on card stock for durability, but I’ve had great results with ordinary copier paper.  I do not recommend laminating cards as most laminators will make cards shiny and the light reflecting off of them will make them hard to scan.  You can also buy durable, matte-laminated cards with rounded corners on Amazon:  Plickers Student Cards – Set of 40.

Collect Real-Time Formative Assessment Data

Scan Student Answers - PlickersNow for the fun part. It’s time to use Plickers!

  1. Pass an answer card out to each student.
  2. Click “Live View” at the top of the page.
  3. Open the Plickers app on your phone or tablet, and use the app for the next 5 steps.
  4. Select a class.
  5. Tap “Library” to pull up the question you created, or you can create a question directly in the app.
  6. Click “Scan Now”  Your question should now appear on the Live View page in your computer’s web browser.
  7. Ask your students to hold up their cards with the correct answer choice letter at the top.
  8. Use the app to aim your phone’s camera at your students’ cards.

The app view rocks! Student names will be displayed in front of them in green (correct answer) or red (wrong answer) as you scan them.

Live View

Student answers are displayed in real time beside the question.  You can view them by card number, student name, or as a bar graph. You can click “Reveal Answer” after all cards are scanned to display the correct answer among all student answers.  You can also hide student responses from view and just display the question by selecting “Hide Panel.”

Real-Time Formative Assessment


Student ScoresheetThe Reports option in the top menu bar allows teachers to view results by question or by class.  Selecting “Question History” allows you to see all of the results for individual questions.  The “Scoresheet” option allow you to pull up student results for all questions they have answered over a specified period of time.  Scoresheets can be printed or exported as a .csv file which can be opened in practically any spreadsheet program.

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