"Let It Slip!" -- Daily Exit Slips Help Teachers Know What Students Really Learned
Want to know how well your students are following what you are teaching during class? Give them the "slip" -- the admit or exit slip, that is! When students respond in writing to what they learn each day, teachers can target the gaps and keep them on the right track! Included: Advice and ideas from teachers who regularly use admit and exit slips to assess student learning.
"Teachers summarize many times in a class period for students, but students themselves sum up their learning only infrequently," Doug Buehl told Education World. "Admit and exit slips provide a classroom activity that encourages students to take stock of their learning, to restate it in terms of their own understanding, and to assess where they are in learning. The activity emphasizes what each individual student is thinking."
Admit and exit slips are small pieces of paper on which students respond to a thought-provoking question or statement. The slips are also completed quickly -- usually in five minutes or less -- but they differ in timing. Admit slips are done before or at the start of class, while exit slips are completed after class or at the end of the day (or period). Both invite students to reflect on the material presented during class and share their observations with the teacher.
At lower grade levels, students may simply respond to a question posed by the teacher orally as an exit or admit slip, but upper-grade students typically respond through writing. When used exclusively as a method of monitoring what the class is getting out of the course material, the slips can even be filled out anonymously. One of the strengths of the approach is its flexibility.
"You gain a sense of student confusions about key ideas," reports Buehl, a reading teacher for grades 9-12. "You gain insight into how students are thinking about the material, and you may see a need for further teaching or reinforcement. You can also identify how students may be personalizing the information."
By utilizing open-ended questions with no "correct" answers, Buehl has empowered his students at Madison East High School in Madison, Wisconsin, and encouraged them to be frank in their observations. The students feel that their thinking is prized and appreciated, and they have a mechanism to express confusions and concerns about the course material. He hopes that this practice will help the students develop reflective thinking behaviors that they may intuitively and regularly use as they learn.
Some of Buehl's favorite assignments include writing about a significant or surprising fact that was learned during class, sharing something that might be confusing about the material or a question that the student still has about it, and choosing a quote from a reading that is worthy of discussion and telling why.
"The diversity of responses I have received from my students through admit and exit slips has surprised me," said Buehl. "I get a wide variety of responses, but at first I suspected that I would get generally the same thing from most people. It also helps to share some of the slips -- anonymously -- so that students have a model for what might be recorded on these slips."
A SAVING OF "OURS"
"Exit slips are a wonderful time-saving activity that can be used in any content," says Pamela A. Ours. "They keep the lines of communication open between me and my students, but they also provide for the often-lacking reflection."
As a secondary reading/English language arts resource teacher, Ours works with teachers of the Washington County Public Schools in Washington County, Maryland, to make reading and writing instruction more effective. She uses admit and exit slips at all times in her classes.
"Before class, I have the students answer a question about a key concept from the day before," she explained. "This allows me to see if they retained information. During class, I might give them the opportunity to respond to a key concept that I just covered to see if there are any misconceptions in their thinking or process. Also, at the end of the class, I have been able to collect information on what they learned during that day's lesson to allow me to adjust my teaching the next day based on what they have learned."
For Ours, exit slips are a true timesaver. They allow her to quickly identify what the students have learned and what they still need to review. Based on the student responses, she can either reteach material or move on.
"During our summer school program, I create a blank calendar for the days that the students are attending summer school," Ours stated. "At the end of each day, students are instructed to write a summary of what they learned, write a concern that they may have about the day's lesson, or ask a question that they may still have about the day's materials. This again allows me, at a glance, to see how my next day's lesson needs to be adapted to meet the individual needs of the students."
Ours does not grade responses in admit or exit slips. She wants her students to feel that this is a forum that they can use to truly, and in a non-threatening way, communicate with her about their learning -- both their strengths and their struggles.
SETTING THE STAGE
"A good lesson is sort of like a story," Stephen Gabbard explained. "It needs an opener, a plot, and a closing element. One way to accomplish this is through the use of admit and exit slips."
Gabbard, a math teacher at Jackson County High School in McKee, Kentucky, uses the slips as a class opener to focus the students on the topic of study, to provide direction for the period, and to review important skills needed for the lesson. His "openers" set the tone and offer background information for the "plot," or lesson, to come. The exit slip finalizes the lesson with a "short and sweet" ending that allows the ninth through twelfth grade students he teaches to draw a conclusion to daily activities.
"Class openers provide immediate feedback as to the readiness of the class as a whole for the lesson or skills needed for the lesson," Gabbard said. "These are usually problems that are representative of the previous day's lesson that provide a tie-in to the lesson being taught that day. Particular problems that I like to use include 'find the error in the work,' puzzles, riddles, or a real-world problem."
Gabbard says that exit slips make evident if a student has got it, or grasped the concepts of a lesson that has been taught. He has several sure-fire ways to wrap up a lesson with an exit slip:
Students keep their class openers and exit slips in separate sections of a binder, and Gabbard may check these at any time for completion.
"These slips are great classroom management tools," Gabbard observed. "The students are immediately on task at the beginning of class. They become focused from the onset. Getting the students into a daily routine really does help. The exit slips provide a constructive reflection task that can be used during those last five hectic minutes of class."
Gabbard's math students have been especially willing to participate in his "openers," an unexpected delight for their teacher. Even students who are at times disengaged during a lesson attempt to complete these brief beginning assignments.
"I recommend the use of these techniques in the classroom," advised Gabbard. "Admit and exit slips are very easy to create and manage, and the results definitely are worth the time spent."