One aspect of teaching that I struggled with early in my career was formative assessment. My classroom routine was organized to my comfort level. We started with a warm-up, moved on to the lesson or lab for the day, and packed up at the end of class. Occasionally there were a few extra minutes at the end of class. I would let the students talk quietly or we would talk together as a class. That was the routine…EVERY SINGLE DAY!
Test day would roll around and some of my students would perform amazingly well while others did not do so great. I just shrugged it off and vowed to myself that I would focus on the students who were struggling a little more. Easier said than done, right? I continued the daily routine – warm-up, lesson or lab, pack up and talk. Test day would come again a few weeks later. I was hopeful that my struggling students would perform better even though I had not changed my routine. Frustration time!!! Some of my students showed progress, some regressed, and some stayed the same. I didn’t know which students to assist because I didn’t know what each individual student understood. It was a shot in the dark. I was just teaching and giving tests. There was no time made for formative assessment, reteach, or remediation.
Cue the exit tickets! Exit tickets are questions on a card or sheet of paper that generally cover a major concept. They can be simple questions or complex diagrams. Whatever meets the needs of your students. I am so thankful to have learned about exit tickets in a professional development several years ago. Exit tickets have changed the way I teach. They can be used in almost any way you want. They are also the perfect (quick and easy prep) formative assessment to help you gauge student understanding. Below you will see 5 tips or strategies for using exit tickets.
Exit Ticket/Check for Understanding – Try this strategy if you have 3-5 minutes remaining at the end of class. Pass out an exit ticket to each student that relates to the key concept from the day’s lesson. As class ends, the students must turn in the exit ticket to you to be able to leave. It’s their “ticket out the door.” Don’t stop there! I take all of the exit tickets and group them into 3 color-coded categories…red, yellow, and green. As I read the student responses I place their exit ticket into one of the 3 categories. Red is for students that absolutely do not understand the concept and need immediate intervention or remediation. Yellow is for students that grasp about half of what they need to know. Green is for the students that obviously have mastered the concept and completely understand. I keep a record sheet in my grade book and I color code each student based on the exit ticket concept I handed out. This gives me a visual of every students’ level of understanding each time I open my grade book. It’s basically a way to collect data on my students. This data allows me to do a better job of addressing their struggles.
Warm-Up/Entry Activity – Call it an “Entry Ticket.” Every student is given a ticket that they must answer and turn in. I usually give my students 3-5 minutes to complete this activity. Once every student has turned in their ticket we go over the answer as a class. I allow another 2-3 minutes for classroom discussion and questions from the students. The goal is to review previous content and clear up any misconceptions before the day’s lesson. I color code these as well.
Station/Rotation Checkpoint – I regularly set up stations and rotations in my classroom. I began adding exit tickets (specific or random concepts) at each station. The students are required to complete the station activity and then the exit ticket before moving to a new station. I have the students write their answers to the exit tickets in a specific location on their paper (usually wherever there is the most blank space). This allows me to go back and look at all of their responses to the exit tickets without searching around. You could also have the students just use a separate sheet of paper for this activity. I feel this strategy is so beneficial. The students are engaged in a current lesson as well as recalling information from previous concepts and units.
Quick Quiz/Assessment – Sometimes I randomly do a quick quiz or assessment using exit tickets. Any time of the class works well. I have done this at the beginning, middle, and end of lessons before. It’s up to you! I rarely grade these, but that’s totally teacher preference as well. I color code these quizzes and use the data to guide my instruction.
Question of the Day – Question of the day time! My students love this challenge. I use this strategy the last 3-5 minutes of class. I place an exit ticket under my document camera and choose a student volunteer. If you do not have a document camera, you can display the exit ticket on the board. The student volunteer has 1 minute to answer the question and explain the concept to the class as detailed as possible. I always reward the volunteers with a jolly rancher or other approved candy. 🙂 This strategy is great for conserving paper and encouraging whole class discussions.
There are so many other ways to use exit tickets – tutorials, reviews, extra practice. It’s really up to you how you implement them into your lessons.
Over the past year we have created an entire bundle of exit tickets that cover a large variety of concepts taught in middle school science. It contains 9 units and 173 exit tickets. If you’re interested in adding exit tickets to your “teacher toolbox” you can check out our Science Exit Ticket Bundle. It’s a great resource to help you get started with formative assessment in your classroom.
As always, we appreciate all that you do for your students. We hope you’ll find this post beneficial. Please feel free to contact us or leave a comment below.