Small But Mighty: Getting The Most From Exit Tickets

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As educators, we continually seek efficient and effective ways to enhance learning. One powerful but perhaps overlooked tool is the humble exit ticket. This simple piece of paper (or digital equivalent) has the potential to help us gauge student understanding, improve our instructional decision making and drive continuous improvement. In this post, we recap what exit tickets are, explain why they are valuable to teachers and discuss implementation strategies. If exit tickets have departed from your teacher toolbox, perhaps now is the time to re-subscribe. 

Understanding Exit Tickets

Exit tickets are mini-assessments, often but not always given to students at the end of a lesson or learning episode. Usually, one or two questions or prompts are designed to offer a quick snapshot of student comprehension. Exit tickets don鈥檛 necessarily measure learning – as learning happens over time – and we must bear that in mind when acting on the data we gather. However, they do provide useful feedback for both teachers and students. Numerous educational researchers, including prominent figures such as Dylan Wiliam, Rick Stiggins, and Kate Jones, have extensively discussed formative assessment practices, encompassing exit ticket use. Their work is recommended for anyone interested in a deeper exploration of the research supporting the effectiveness of exit tickets.

Why Are Exit Tickets So Powerful?

1. In The Moment Feedback: Exit tickets offer a snapshot of student understanding, enabling educators to identify gaps in comprehension in real-time. This instant feedback allows for just-in-time adjustments to teaching strategies.

2. Informing Instructional Planning: By collecting data from exit tickets, teachers can tailor future lessons to address any identified areas of difficulty, ensuring that curriculum delivery aligns with students’ needs.

3. Student Reflection: Exit tickets can encourage self-reflection among students. They allow students to assess their understanding, fostering a sense of accountability for their learning.

4. Engagement and Participation: The anticipation of an exit ticket encourages active participation throughout the lesson, as students know they will be required to demonstrate their understanding.

5. Checking for Learning: If an earlier formative assessment revealed gaps in knowledge and the teacher took steps to address this, use an exit ticket a day or two later to test that knowledge. In this way, teachers can better understand whether their intervention had the desired result. 

Using Exit Tickets Effectively

1. Clearly Defined Objectives: Write questions centred around the main idea of a learning episode. By ensuring that the exit ticket addresses key concepts, teachers are better positioned to decide their next step. Of course, this necessitates a curriculum that is clearly defined in scope and sequence and requires teachers to have a strong knowledge of the structure and content of the curriculum.

2. Clear Expectations: Communicate the purpose of exit tickets to students. Let them know it is a brief assessment to gauge their understanding and provide feedback for them and you as the teacher. Clarify that it’s not a high-stakes test but rather a tool for continuous improvement.

3. Variety in Question Types: Rotate through different types of exit ticket questions. Mix in multiple-choice, short-answer, and reflective prompts. This variety helps capture different aspects of student understanding and provides a more comprehensive view of their learning.

4. Consistent Implementation: Establish a routine for using exit tickets. Despite the name, it can often be more appropriate to issue exit tickets in the middle of a lesson, ideally when instruction has finished and students are working independently. An effective routine is to print individual tickets on small pieces of paper and distribute these face-down during independent practice. Then, quietly stop the class, ask them to take their ticket, answer it, and place it face down before resuming their independent work. You may put a time limit on this activity – usually no more than 3 or 4 minutes. A routine like this is calm and orderly and avoids rushing at the end of a lesson. Once all the tickets are face down, the teacher can quietly walk around the room and collect them.

5. Immediate Review: Take the time to review and analyse exit ticket responses promptly. Use the insights gained to inform instructional decisions and adapt teaching strategies. Issuing and collecting tickets during a lesson gives time to review them and perhaps respond before the end of the lesson. 

6. Consider your response: How we respond depends on what we see. All correct or all incorrect paints a pretty clear picture. However, often we see a mixture of correct/incorrect. A responsive teacher might have a quiet word with two or three students, take a small group aside, or perhaps reteach the idea in the next lesson.

Examples of Exit Tickets

Here are some exit ticket examples for different school subjects, each incorporating different question types:

Mathematics

Short Answer: Calculate the area of a rectangle with a length of 8 metres and a width of 5 metres.

Factual Recall: What is the value of 蟺 (pi) to two decimal places?

Explanation: Describe the process of finding the area of a circle. Include a relevant formula and explain the meaning of each variable in the formula.

A) Mean

B) Median

C) Mode

D) Range

English / Literature

Short Answer: Provide a one-sentence summary of the main theme in the novel “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Factual Recall: Who is the author of the play “Romeo and Juliet”?

Explanation: Explain the concept of foreshadowing in literature with an example.

Multiple Choice: In Shakespeare’s “Macbeth,” who is responsible for the line “Out, damned spot!”?

    A) Macbeth

    B) Lady Macbeth

    C) The Witches

    D) Banquo

Science (Biology)

Short Answer: Name and describe the process by which plants make their food.

Factual Recall: Name the largest bone in the human body.

Explanation: Explain the role of DNA in genetic inheritance.

Multiple Choice: Which of the following is a mammal?

    A) Frog

    B) Snake

    C) Dolphin

    D) Turtle

History

Short Answer: Identify one key event that led to the start of World War II.

Factual Recall: Who was the first President of the United States?

Explanation: Explain the significance of the Magna Carta in shaping modern constitutional principles.

Multiple Choice: Archduke Franz Ferdinand, whose assassination triggered the start of World War I, was the heir to the throne of which empire?

   A) Ottoman Empire

   B) Austro-Hungarian Empire

   C) British Empire

   D) Russian Empire

Geography

Short Answer: Name two major rivers in Asia.

Factual Recall: What is the capital city of Australia?

Explanation: Explain the process of continental drift.

Multiple Choice: Which of the following is a landlocked country in South America?

    A) Brazil

    B) Argentina

    C) Bolivia

    D) Chile

Variations to Try

1. Variations on a theme: Instead of giving every student an identical question and risking accidental collaboration, create two versions of essentially the same question and distribute them alternately to your students. You will be amazed how quickly they realise they have different questions!

2. Peer Feedback: Introduce a collaborative element by having students exchange and review their partner’s exit tickets. This not only encourages reflection but also enhances communication skills.

3. Retrieval Practice: Exit tickets don鈥檛 have to test ideas from today鈥檚 lesson. Consider writing exit tickets to prompt retrieval of content from the last week or month. 

4. Exit Interviews: For older students, consider conducting brief one-on-one discussions instead of written exit tickets. In this way, teachers can get a deeper insight into individual students’ knowledge.

Conclusion

Exit tickets are a valuable tool for informing teaching and enhancing learning. With thoughtful implementation, they provide immediate feedback, can inform instructional planning, and lead to improved learning. With creativity and by considering variations, teachers can use this simple strategy to create a more responsive classroom. Exit tickets, with their potential to gather immediate feedback about the whole class, are a valuable addition to any teacher’s toolkit.



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