Teaching Secrets: Start With the Exit Ticket

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"Did they get what I just taught them?" It's a question teachers are constantly asking themselves. I've found that thoughtful planning and saving a few minutes of class time for end-of-lesson assessments, often called "exit tickets," can help you figure out the answer.

But how can we maximize the effectiveness of daily exit tickets? Here are some tips:

Write Your Ticket First

Before planning the steps of your lesson—that is, before deciding what you're going to say, do, and assign—create your exit ticket. Then plan with your goal in mind. Ask yourself, "What can I do in this lesson to ensure that 100 percent of my students will be able to complete the exit ticket successfully?"

Beginning with the end in mind is not a new idea, but it is a valuable one. When you don't create your assessment first, you run the risk of including extraneous or unnecessary examples, questions, and activities—things that might get in the way of students' mastery of the topic.

Short and Sweet

An exit ticket shouldn't have more than a few questions on it. (After all, you'll need to be able to check them quickly.) If you find that your exit tickets are longer, look for redundancies. Do you really need six multiplication problems, or will one or two do? If you have many different types of questions on your assessment (e.g., multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction), then it's possible your lesson objective isn't focused enough.

You might consider collecting answers using electronic response "clickers," if your school has them. There are also sites such as Poll Everywhere, Socrative, and Flubaroo that let you set up assessments for students to access via cell phone, tablet, or computer.

Teach What's on the Ticket

It seems simple: If you want students to show mastery on the assessment, you have to teach them how to do what's on the assessment. For example, if you're assessing students' ability to describe a character's motivation using evidence from a story, make sure you teach what motivation means, how to determine it, and how to support it with evidence.

Be sure to ask yourself: Do my exit tickets share the formatting or wording of questions I've introduced in class? Have I inadvertently asked students to demonstrate a skill that I haven't yet taught? If your students aren't performing well on exit tickets, check your teaching against the ticket.

Use What You Learn

Daily exit tickets should inform your instruction. A well-written exit ticket identifies struggling students and makes it clear exactly where the problems lie, so you can focus your reteaching efforts. It's not worth moving forward unless all of your students are ready.

If some students didn't do well on a daily ticket, use that information to reteach them so they can master the content or skill. You can pull strugglers as a small group or meet with them one at a time to reinforce what they need to learn. If a majority of the class fails to pass your exit ticket, consider starting the next day's class with a discussion of the assessment. Let the students talk to each other about their thinking while you guide them to an understanding of the concept. If necessary, take the entire class period to teach the lesson in a different way. Remember to check for growth after reteaching by assigning another exit ticket.

Assess Your Teaching, Too

Finally, don't forget to use your tickets to reflect on how you taught your lesson. I remember one 5th grade math lesson in which I was confident that my teaching was a "homerun." The exit tickets revealed otherwise. We had been working on using multiplication and division to solve word problems. The exit tickets showed that my students were sometimes multiplying when they needed to divide, and vice versa.

Where had I confused them? In thinking back, I realized we had worked on multiplication problems for a portion of class, and then worked on division. But we had never talked about how to decide which one to do! This reflection was key to successfully reteaching.

No matter what subject you teach, an end-of-lesson assessment can help you keep your finger on the pulse of your students' understanding. Otherwise, you might not discover students' misconceptions or gaps in knowledge until you give a weekly quiz or even a unit assessment.

So now it's time for your exit ticket … how are you using daily assessment in your classroom—or how can you imagine doing so in the future? Share your ideas and techniques by leaving a comment.

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