George Lucas Educational Foundation
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In my first year of teaching English, I had to teach prepositions to sixth graders. I fumbled around for an entry point and reached out to a more seasoned colleague, who suggested that I employ the analogy of the rabbit and the log.

He said the approach was simple: draw a picture of a log and a rabbit on the board, and place the rabbit at different positions in relation to the log. This would draw out the use of prepositions. For example, "The rabbit is on the log." It sounded like a sensible approach.

The Rabbit-and-Log Syndrome

I went into the class and did as exactly as he had explained. The engagement of the students was off the charts. Kids were jumping out of their seats to place the rabbit in relation to the log. They seemed to be really getting it and understanding prepositions. I couldn't believe how easy this was.

I finished the class feeling rather good about myself and reported back to my colleague, who was equally pleased.

The next day, I had to leave early to coach a soccer game, so I asked my department chair if she could cover my class. She was happy to do so. She started by reviewing what we had done around prepositions the day before, and began by reminding the class of the topic of prepositions. She saw several confused and puzzled faces among the students. She too grew confused. "What's wrong?" she asked. One of the students replied, "We didn't learn anything about prepositions yesterday. We learned about rabbits and logs."

She chuckled and then moved into the lesson to drill down on prepositions to make sure the students understood what a preposition meant.

She approached me in a kind and gentle manner the following day and said, "I think you might need to review prepositions again," as she recounted what had happened in the class she taught.

That experience served as a major "aha" moment to me as a young teacher. I realized that I needed to have some way of assessing what students were learning both as the class was unfolding and at the completion of class.

This is the moment when I started using exit cards, a 3x5 notecard for students to write down something they had learned.

I used a variety of prompts, such as one word, a question, a phrase, a haiku, a quote, a picture, etc. I gained so much invaluable daily data through the exit card and recognized how critical frequent assessment is to ensuring understanding.

I pooled the data from the exit cards to figure out next steps and to revisit a topic that didn't quite hit the mark.

The Digital Media Exit Card

Today, with the explosion of digital media, teachers have so many tools at their disposal for this kind of assessment. What would a digital media exit card look like? Here are some possibilities that utilize mobile devices:

  • A six-second Vine video to capture the most critical six seconds of class
  • A 16-second video to post to MixBit, YouTube's new video sharing tool
  • A tweet that boils down the essence of the class to 140 characters
  • A photo illustrating the key learning moment that can then be posted on a class Instagram account
  • A question posted to a class Edmodo account inviting a continuation of the learning outside of class

The key 21st century skill in all of these approaches is synthesis, the ability to cut to the essence of an idea or concept and communicate in an effective, succinct, compelling manner.

In a recent NPR piece, Daniel Hajek writes, "Try telling a story in six seconds. With the social media app Vine, owned by Twitter, users are doing just that. They're creating everything from artistic pieces to random comedy sketches in six-second videos that loop endlessly."

The goal of this mini-storytelling is "to get people talking," as Ron Faris from Virgin Mobile shares in the same NPR story.

For teachers, the key is how to get the learning to spill out of the classroom and continue the conversation. As the school year starts, digital tools via mobile devices are a perfect resource for breaking down the walls of the classroom, gathering immediate feedback on learning, and sharing in social media communities.

And digital exit cards can help teachers take the pulse of what kids are learning, avoiding the rabbit-and-log syndrome of kids missing the mark on a lesson.

What are some ways that you can use "digital media exit cards" to keep the learning conversation going this year?

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Kim Hogg's picture

Agree with some prevoous comments. Privacy concerns exist with some of these ideas. Realy surprised to see Socrative left off the list (any web-enabled device will work). Designed exactly for this purpose.

Karen Howey's picture
Karen Howey
Teacher of the Gifted and Talented

The exit ticket strategy shows up in classroom around the world. Similar to Mr. Levinson, I believe in its strength to solidify learning. In my elementary classroom, the students use the app Socrative or the website Poll Anywhere. Socrative is mainly designed for Apps, but the student may also log on to the website to answer question. It also has a built in exit ticket in case a teacher doesn't have time to create a new exit ticket question. Poll Anywhere is mainly designed to be used with cell phones, but once again, the students can log in via a website. What high school student wouldn't want to use their cell phone in class to text an answer for an exit ticket?

Margaret's picture

Matt, Formative assessment is indeed key, but being clear on what you are assessing is equally key. Your definition of synthesis is summary, not synthesis. As 21st century learning skills go, summary is quite a bit lower on the critical thinking continuum (but still important) than synthesis.

Mrs. Brookins's picture
Mrs. Brookins
4th grade math teacher in FL

What a neat idea! I would love to do a digital exit ticket, we have Edmodo, but Twitter is blocked. Sadly, by the time our antiquated computers open up the app, and hopefully the internet isn't down, the bell will have rang, and half the students gone. If I could find adequate wall space to hang 20 sentence strips, i could take a pic with the iPhone, then upload it to Edmodo for discussion.
I suppose my problem is, we have all these neat ideas I'd love to incorporate--and might even do it a time or two, then, soon, it just fades off into the sunset....

Matt Butcher's picture

Good ideas, but you have to turn them into paper and pencil for at least two reasons: 1. Lots of kids just don't have the tech and you have to create alternatives and 2. Flak from tech privacy issues for teachers

Ashley Bishop's picture

I hear you on just not having time to integrate most of the cool ideas I read about. Instead of a dozen new digital tools, what we really need is another two hours of planning and collaboration time each day. #keepdreaming

Oh, and I'm sure it's probably just a typo, but it's "will have rung."

Hal Kirkwood's picture

Interesting idea. If the students do each have computers available you could use something like Padlet (a virtual post-it note wall) to post their quick exit card comment. This would capture all the comments in a single location easily.

Kara Aharon's picture

No argument on the need to make sure students have understood the material but, as an EFL teacher, I do have a question about your story. The children didn't know what a preposition was, but could they say and understand sentences like "The rabbit is on the log." "The log is near the rabbit."? If so, they learned, understood and internalized what you were teaching and your colleague needs to "step outside the box".

Gwen Pescatore's picture
Gwen Pescatore
President Home & School Assoc, #ParentCamp Organizer, Co-Moderator #PTchat

Kara...I was wondering the same, as I read this. Sometimes, I think the best learning is when kids don't know they're learning. BUT....we need to help them connect the dots at the end. So maybe the lesson just wasn't finished.

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