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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

Becky's picture
Gifted Education Specialist

I use entrance tickets to learn the students' prior knowledge. If we are doing a Socratic discussion about an event, text, picture, they have to have studied it ahead of time. The entry ticket asks a question that will tell me if they have studied it. Students who are not ready for the discussion part, are positioned just behind the discussion circle and take notes on the process. Did everyone have a chance to speak? Did anyone monopolize the conversation? Did points made always go back to the source material? Students become much better listeners and participants by participating in BOTH roles and no one is left out or punished. If i am teaching how to puctuate quotations or cite references, for example, the entry ticket tells me if the students already have mastery so they don't sit through stuff they've already mastered (I use 80-80% as my mastery cut-off). They should also be learning something new.

GreenTeacher's picture

I believe the exit slip is a great formative assessment. My students are usually asked to take into consideration different topics they learned in class that day and compare or contrast or determine the cause and effect with another topic learned earlier that week or those before. I have not considered letting students rate their understanding of a lesson in an exit slip (such as 1-5). I usually ask them to give a thumbs up, down, or sideways so I could get a quick glimpse. On the other hand, having students write a number on the slip along with an assessment question would allow more privacy for the students; they perhaps would be more honest. Students could even respond with questions directed for me. I also like the idea using exit slips to activate prior knowledge and surveying students. As Becky mentioned in her post, I also use an entrance ticket. However, my entrance ticket is verbal. Students are asked a question at the door (a number of questions are asked at random). In order to enter the classroom, students must answer correctly. This allows me to get an idea if students studied or what they remember.

Brittany Jenkins's picture

I agree that the ticket out the door is a great way for students to let you know how your lesson went. In our PLC meeting we talked about how to differentiate the "ticket out the door". It allows the teacher to focus on what the students' LEARNED, and not how the lesson was TAUGHT. You can have the best lesson in the world, but if your students do not comprehend the lesson, then it was a waste of the students' time and the teachers' time. I teach in a third grade inclusion classroom, and I make sure I do not single anyone out. A lot of my students were having trouble putting their ideas on paper. They dreaded the end of the lesson and would put an average of 2-3 sentences. They rotate between three different stations voice to text (record on a tape recorder then write it down, helps with processing), "wh" dice (who, what, when, where, why, and how), and live broad casting. They love like broad casting, after each lesson we pick five students names out of a bucket and they are allowed to go record what they learned during the lesson. The students love to be recorded so now they are writing paragraphs about what they've learned so they can see their selves on the active board. This form of assessment has increased my students writing as well as ability to answer in complete sentences.
During our grade level PLC meeting we put our minds together to come up with the activities that would engage the students, but also allow us to see who needed extra instruction. After reading this blog I think I may have students provide their prior knowledge into their feedback and provide an activating question for the class to think about till the next lesson. (ex. How much money do you think Paul Revere made selling his silver objects?)

Laura Pupillo's picture

I use an exit slip almost daily in my fourth and fifth grade class. The exit slip in my class doesn't always look the same. Sometimes, it's a problem to solve independently while other times it's a pre-asessment for the next day and then, sometimes it is a reflective piece. My favorite is the reflective piece. I find the students know themselves well and when given this opportunity, will honestly write what they know and advocate for what they need. This piece has been transforming in my teaching. I highly recommend it!

Mark D. Ruth's picture
Mark D. Ruth
Assistant Principal of Instruction at IDEA Public Schools- Alamo Campus

We use exit slips as a way to assess student's mastery of that days lesson. When I meet with my teachers weekly, we can use data from the exit slips to see if our students are on track to being successful on their end-of-week formative assessments. Because of time constraints, many of our teachers use GradeCam to get instant, easy data from the slips.

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

The more I think about it, the more I like this idea! I hadn't really heard about it before. I do space sciences presentations at schools, so asking students to write me letters about what they learned can be very useful - for me to see how they responded and for them when they receive my feedback to their letters.

But a caveat: I have the time to do this. This is not something a teacher with 200 - 300 students can do frequently. Nor can a teacher with a self contained class of 30 students do this with every subject every day.

Elizabeth Lowe's picture

I had a University professor who used exit slips to engage students in classes. He required a certain number over a semester; we chose which classes to write about.

While his lectures were already engaging, this was extra motivation to grab onto the information and make it our own. He also took the time to read them and add comments. I recall at least one of my exit slip topics turned into a paper. His comments helped me sort out my thoughts before choosing a writing topic.

I can see how exit slips could be very effective at the high school level, and find it really intriguing to think about how younger students could benefit from this strategy. Thanks for a thought-provoking article.

Kinbrae Bezdicek's picture
Kinbrae Bezdicek
Future English Teacher

In classes that I am currently taking, I have just been introduced to the idea of an exit slip. I think that it is a good way to get ideas that are floating around in a students mind out and onto the page.

I also think that it could be a useful tool, like the blog says, for students to evaluate how well the students retained the information taught that day. It also allows students to join in a conversation about their learning. Students can honestly assess their learning in light of a lesson, and provide the teacher with valuable feedback. I believe that the more students are involved in their education, the more open they are to learning. Exit slips allow for that connection to develop and strengthen over time.

While some students might not be as receptive to exit slips, I think that if you give students options on how to approach exit slips, they will be more open to the task.

Isaac D. Van Wesep's picture
Isaac D. Van Wesep
I am the co-founder of Design by Educators and the software Quick Key

This is a great post, and I am glad it references other writing showing real evidence of the effectiveness of formative assessment.

My co-founder is a veteran teacher who spent two hours grading 90 exit tickets, each weekday. It was way too much time to spend, even though the resulting data was useful. Unless one is teaching in a successfully-implemented 1:1 school, getting real DATA in your exit tickets requires grading paper assessments. This is a major problem for the 99% of world teachers who do NOT teach in 1:1 environments. I won't plug our company's product here. But am I right that this is road-block to daily formatives?

zep's picture
Education Specialist

Many of my colleagues are no longer interested in formal formative assessments of any form, conversations with kids, who some may label a form of formative assessment is a wondrous practice, though those who I know who make this an on-going practice would absolutely not look at it as assessment of any kind, rather they would consider it the privilege of sharing space with a fellow human being, child or adult, and taking advantage of the opportunity to converse, absolutely no judgments of any kind.

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