As teachers, the most important piece of information we can possess is a clear idea of how each of our students are doing in any given area of instruction. Unfortunately, many teachers rely on end-of-unit summative assessments to get that information; but that is often too late to do much when we discover that our students haven’t learned what we hoped they would. This is my fourth year in the classroom, and I have just recently become familiar with, and to be honest, fallen in love with, exit slips. In general, an exit slip is any written response created by a student at the end of a lesson, answering a specific question asked by the teacher. They are a powerful formative assessment tool that I believe have completely revamped my teaching and made me a more effective educator.
With new Common Core State Standards, I felt like my old ways of assessing (my observations, the occasional quiz, and end-of-unit tests) just weren’t cutting it. I have made some major teaching shifts as my students and I are slowly becoming familiar with the language and rigor of our new ELA and Math standards. What I needed most was accurate and immediate information. I needed to know if my students understood a word I said after trying out a new lesson with a focus on depth and rigor. Exit slips provide that immediate data. They tell me which of my students are understanding, which are not, and which are somewhere in the middle. The most important part, however, is what you do with that data. Use it to inform you instruction (do I need to review? Is it okay to move on?) and to also give feedback to your students so they know exactly how they are doing as well.To help you hit the ground running with exit slips (or if you’ve been using them a while, to see how other teachers might be using them differently), here are two of my favorite exit slip strategies:
Exit Slip for Skill Check
This is probably the most widely used form of exit slip; and even so, there are many ways, shapes, and forms to use an exit slip to check for understanding. You teach a lesson, and you want to know immediately how well your students understood the skill or strategy taught. This can be done by asking students to solve a sample problem (math) or by asking a question and having students answer and explain their thinking in one or two sentences. It’s important to create exit slips that are short and accurately aligned to the target you want to assess. Below is an example of an exit slip that I created after an ELA lesson (we have a Twitter theme and my students write their responses on sticky notes before posting it to our “Twitter Feed,” bulletin board).
Exit Slip for Self-Assessment
My goal this year was to find a way to boost my students’ involvement and ownership in their learning. One of the ways I tried to do this, was to focus on student self-assessment. Exit slips have proven to be a great way to do just that. Here is an example of an exit slip that I wrote on the back of my students’ math homework. Immediately after the lesson, and before working on their homework later that night, I ask my students to assess their specific skill proficiency. In addition, to promote ownership, I sometimes give my students options on the number of problems they will do (I do assign a minimum!). This is dually beneficial for me; I can assess my students self-assessment skills, and get a read on their self-efficacy after the lesson.
As professionals who generally have more on their plates than is reasonable or healthy, it’s important to be as efficient as possible. Finding a strategy to implement in the classroom that is beneficial to both teaching and learning, and doesn’t take hours of prep or loads of resourcecs, is truly a gold mine. By spanning any subject, classroom, or age group, and requiring very little prep, the exit slip has truly been my gold mine discovery and has paid dividends towards increasing learning in my classroom.