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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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A Favorite Formative Assessment: The Exit Slip

Rebecca Alber

Edutopia Consulting Online Editor

Updated 10/2013

When we think about all the different ways we check for understanding in the classroom, a go-to strategy for many teachers has always been the exit slip or exit ticket. For this strategy, students write at the conclusion of learning, sometimes on a half-sheet of paper with sentence starters provided. It's then collected by the teacher. Why a favorite? Being that they come at the end of a lesson, unit, or segment of study, exit slips give teachers a snapshot of the overall student learning.

Robert Marzano, classroom researcher and education author, recently wrote in depth about this formative assessment. In the article, he shares four uses for exit slips. Students:

  1. Rate their current understanding of new learning.
  2. Analyze and reflect on their efforts around the learning.
  3. Provide feedback to teachers on an instructional strategy.
  4. Provide feedback about the materials and teaching.

An exit slip can also be be a great way to set up the next day's learning. With that in mind, here's a few uses to consider:

Discover Shared Interests

Before introducing a group project that includes student choice, students can respond to a strategic question via an exit slip, sharing their primary topics of interest and their reasons.

Activate Prior Knowledge

Instead of taking time during class to create a concept/topic map, you can provide students with the concept or topic word at the end of class, activating their prior knowledge, and have them write words and phrases related to it on their half sheet of paper. When they come into the classroom the next day, they will see all their ideas displayed around the main word or phrase. This brainstorm also serves as a diagnostic check for the teacher.

The Start of an Essay

The low-stakes nature and end-of-class urgency of the exit slips creates a space for students to write quickly, jotting down all that they know about something. You could ask, for example, "Tell me all that you believe to be (a character's) motivation for ______ in the book________." Students write and write for several minutes. You can hand it back to them the next day, telling them they have a start to their first draft of a character analysis essay.

Surveying Students

Use the exit slip to survey students on a current issue or hot button topic related to them (i.e. curfew, cellphone use at school). The data can be used to launch a lesson on the art of debate, or start a unit on argumentative writing ("75% of the class agrees that...").

The beauty of the exit slip is that it puts the learning in the students' hands. It's also empowering for them when they see what they have shared influence what and how they are taught the next day.

We'd love to hear your ideas. How do you use exit slips in your classroom?

Rebecca Alber

Edutopia Consulting Online Editor
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Comments (22)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Sherbea1's picture
Spanish/ESL teacher

I use this type of assessment in my classes, students appreciate being asked about their education at all ages. I find that it takes a few times of practice and feedback for students to think critically about the questions posed. Also, I have to ask substantive questions rather than yes/no questions so that I can get useful feedback.

Lauren Watler's picture
Lauren Watler
Masters of Education Student in Virginia Beach, Virginia

As a teacher we all know it is hard to monitor who is totally mastering the content we are instructing our students on. However, we are responsible to continuously check for understanding so we don't get through the entire lesson with students not mastering the content.
The exit slip is just that, an exit slip. Students are able to show off what they have gained from your instruction. I have observed a teacher that allowed students to work independently on their exit slips, and then place their exit slip on the door when done. When all the students are done; students then choose a slip off the door and peer-check. This exercise allows students to discuss the content and misconceptions of the lesson.

Meghan's picture

I think using the exit slip as a formative assessment is a great idea. Teachers can use exit slips within all grade levels. I am currently in a graduate program for elementary education PK-6. I never thought about integrating exit slips into my lesson plans. I used exit slips a lot in high school and in my undergraduate studies. It is interesting to see that exit slips can be utilized effectively in elementary grades as well. Within elementary grades I believe it is extremely important to activate prior knowledge and to go off of what your students already know. Therefore, I think using exit slips to guide proper instruction for the follow up class will be very beneficial. Also, discovering shared ideas could also be achieved by using exit slips. I also think using exit slips at the beginning of the year could be a great way to get to know your students!

LanaLisa's picture
Spanish teacher Norfolk, VA

I really enjoyed reading this article and even the comments. When writing my lesson plans I usually use exit slips as my closure. However, I feel that I needed a novel approach to the exit slip. Thank you all.

Susan Weikel Morrison's picture
Susan Weikel Morrison
Science Education Program Developer, Sci-Q Systems

These exit slips sound like a great idea for secondary classes. All of my experience is elementary, with class sizes usually over 30 students. Self-reflectivity and self-evaluation are not really age appropriate for elementary kids.

My favorite quick and easy (for me) way to check for student understanding is to do an Activate Prior Knowledge activity at the beginning of the lesson if I'm not sure of where the students are. I do this a lot these days because I visit classrooms to do special science lessons.

When I was teaching full time, I usually knew where the kids were coming from. But with new material, I did quick checks by constantly querying a variety of students, making the lesson a dialogue between me and the class. When there was a point that I really wanted to be mastered by the end of the lesson, I'd target my questions to my weakest students, figuring if they got it, then everyone probably did.

Jenni Wright's picture
Jenni Wright
International speaker on changing brains without the need for surgery

The method I use is less formal. Students write a reflection at the end of a training session. However, these are all great ideas and I will now do something more formal. Thank you :)

Anne Jolly's picture
Anne Jolly
STEM curriculum writer, PLC author, consultant and trainer

I really like this article! It gave me so many good ideas - as do the comments posted.
I often use exit slips as a means of capturing what students (or teams) know about the "big idea" of the lesson. I like the idea of team exit slips occasionally because it requires students to work together to pool their knowledge about a central question - thereby increasing the learning. I also use exit slips to ask them to comment on their teamwork - it gives me a sense of where the group needs help with that important skill.

zep's picture
Education Specialist

How about an entrance slip? Are you entering the room out of obligation or because you want to learn about the content within the room? If it is out of obligation do we really think any of these strategies are going to truly bear fruit? Once again we appear to be putting lipstick on a pig, kids forced to take irrelevant courses b/c they are mandated, the pig still smells like ... a pig.

Erich Reitenbach's picture
Erich Reitenbach
Elementary Technology Intergrator

Socrative is a wonderful tool for this. Also Educreations is excellent for metacognition - the knowing about knowing. The student can show a skill like math or writing for example and do a voice recording indicating their mastery of the item.

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