The End of the Exit Ticket

Don't get me wrong: exit tickets can help students summarize or apply their learning from a class, and honest data can inform your planning for the next day, indicating which students understood the material and which you might target for intervention because they need more time. Some teachers are masters of the exit ticket and use them with great proficiency.

But not me. Confession time: I'm not a big fan of exit tickets.

Maybe it is just the name that irks me. I mean seriously, do high school students need a ticket to exit the room? I feel like the name puts up walls and just challenges our more defensive students to say I'm leaving with or without your cutely-designed, well-thought-out little ticket. Further, when asking students to rate their confidence on the question posed or the lesson in general you can bet your new LeBron's there are students who will say they are more confident than they are because..... hmmm, let's see: they don't want more practice because they are already struggling and that feeling of discomfort is, well, uncomfortable. Also, many of our incoming students aren't accustomed to classrooms that focus on growth over assessment. They don't see "not there yet" as a step on the ladder.

But I digress.

What I am really a fan of is seeing what my students know at the start of class the next day... or several days later. Or longer. This method is consistent with many of the retrieval practice approaches outlined in Make It Stick, Learn Better, Mastermind. Depending on the topic and where my class is in the unit, there are several strategies I would employ in my anti-exit ticket strategy. Whether you want to check in on what your students recall from the lesson yesterday, or last week or last are a few strategies you might try.

  1. 3 Facts Students list 3 facts from the lesson/topic. Once you check all students have completed the task, have them combine their responses in a shared Doc (or poster paper, or paper, or the chalkboard. Hey, we're teachers we can figure it out!). Later in the day, other classes can compare their fact sheets to those created by earlier classes. Did they miss anything? What would they add/change?

  2. Problem Solvers Pose a question from the lesson yesterday that requires students to apply the information to synthesize a response. Use a whiteboard (No whiteboard? Use chalk on a lab table or a piece of paper) to show your solution and explain your reasoning. Twist: Jigsaw this! Let's say you have six table groups of four. Pose 4 problems. Each member of the group goes to the question number table to work on the problem then reports back to the group. Keep everyone accountable: Tell the students you will take one completed problem set from each table and you will choose..... randomly!

  3. Question Set Choose 5-10 multiple choice questions.. preferably a combination of old material and new. I like to use TestWizard for this purpose. Depending on your goals, you can have the students work independently or in groups. Frequently, I will put them in groups for this. If you keep in mind that the goal is to learn and not evaluate at this point, group discussions about relevant questions can help learning!

  4. Edpuzzle Find a video that relates to your topic and embed questions requiring students to apply what they learned. Also... if I had to kick it old school with an exit ticket, this would be my go-to option.

  5. Brain Dump On a whiteboard, Google Slide, or plain old piece of paper, write down everything you can recall from the lesson/topic....without looking at any materials. Words, phrases, diagrams, models..... it's all good. Literally just have them purge their memories. Allow about 3 minutes for this. Then have the students combine compare with a partner. If you're feeling ambitious or the students are struggling, you may want to have the partner groups share with another partner group. We call this think-pair-pair-share but I'm sure there's a catchier name out there somewhere (feel free to comment on it, show-offs).

  6. Summary Sheets Similar to the brain dump and the facts, this requires about 5 minutes for students to sketch out a summary of what they learned. Equations, diagrams, and models are at a premium here.

  7. Create a Question Have students create a multiple choice question using the material from the previous class. Blake Harvard at The Effortful Educator provides an excellent template for this in his blog post, Maximizing the Effectiveness of Multiple Choice Qs. This method doesn't merely ask the student to pose a question and come up with the correct answer. This strategy engages students with the incorrect choices as well, asking them to consider which incorrect choice was the trickiest and why, write a new question where the incorrect choice is now correct, and relate an incorrect choice to a previous unit of study or lesson. When the students have created their question and analyzed their choices, they can exchange with another student, complete their question, and then compare answers. In this case, students are re-exposed to multiple topics just through two questions. Check out my activity here.

And of course, all of these can be modified to keep it interesting for your students. For example, turn answering questions into a Grudge Ball game. Turn your 3 Facts into charades or Pictionary. Use FlipGrid or SeeSaw instead of a shared Doc. Have students make a 3-minute screencast about the lesson instead of a summary sheet. Kids need variation, so think of this as like a P90X approach to teaching. Mix it up, build skills, keep it interesting. This all depends on having teachers who can adapt to the needs of their students. Sometimes you need to take the metaphorical temperature of the class and have the intestinal fortitude to say hmmm, well I planned to do this as a Google Doc but today seems like more of a Pictionary day. Teachers, this means you may need to step outside of your carefully crafted plans and just respond to the needs of your students at that time. (And, oh, I am so eagerly awaiting the opportunity to post my thoughts about lesson planning!).

Why wait until the next day for this anti-exit ticket? Three reasons.

  1. We don't want students just to regurgitate information at the end of a lesson. Let's face it: some kids have excellent short-term memories but they don't understand a lick of what they are saying.

  2. Some of our students need more time to process the information, link it to their prior learning or experience, and build those connections within their brains.

  3. A lot can happen in 24 hours. I am much happier to see a kid "get it" the next day rather than the same day. This shows a greater likelihood of long-term retention. As discussed in Mastermind, our memories are like boxes in the attic. If we don't take them out and dust them off periodically, they become lost in the clutter.

I hope maybe I've encouraged one or two of you out in the nether nether of Internetlandia to consider ditching the exit ticket and giving these strategies a try. I'd love to hear what you think, so please comment, Tweet, Insta, or email me about your experiences with the end of the exit ticket and whether or not you observe any impact on retention.

July 2018