By G. FAITH LITTLE
We check for understanding constantly, don’t we?
“Does that make sense?”
"Know what I mean?”
When it comes to our classrooms, we’re looking for more precise ways to check for understanding. Here are some simple ways and a few tools to use in your class as soon as tomorrow!
A simple and positive hand gesture can check to see who is hearing your instruction and who needs more support to move forward. You can use this:
Choose your emoji
Expressions are a helpful way for students to share how they’re feeling or thinking about new or challenging content. It is especially useful for English Language Learners and Students with Disabilities. Using emojis (which can be individual cut outs or together on one piece of paper), ask students to choose the emoji that best represents their current experience.
As you move around the room, you can customize your questions and support. Find out more about what the happy faces understand, what the thinking faces are working out, and what the sad faces need to make their struggle productive.
See how the homework informed thinking or where yesterday’s mini-lesson landed by collecting a little data at the beginning of class. You can even combine this tool with the emojis you've used previously:
Whatever the tool, getting clear feedback is key to differentiating your instruction and increasing communication with your students!
By G. FAITH LITTLE
An exit ticket is like an Instant Pot. You hear about how great it is — it saves time, it’s simple, it’s flexible, and it doesn’t need many ingredients. It seems to be a staple tool at this point, so you pick one up and start using it. So it goes with exit tickets. When we start using them, it may be because of both convenience and necessity. They’re quick and easy, and they allow you to breathe for a couple of minutes before your next class period starts or you need to switch over to the next subject you’re teaching.
Exit tickets also provide a supportive rhythm to your class. They signal to kids that they will be transitioning soon, and this is invaluable to many students — especially if they struggle with change during their school day. Exit tickets provide a natural way to move from one space into the next, figuratively (if students stay in the same classroom) and literally (if students move to a new room).
Sometimes that’s as far as we get with using exit tickets. It feels like enough, especially at the start of the school year or in the first year of your teaching career. But we can improve our use of exit tickets by taking them from simple (and valuable!) classroom tools and morphing them into invaluable formative assessments.
“The power of exit tickets lies not only in informing instructional decisions — it includes the public acknowledgment of students' ideas and making adaptations of lessons, based on these responses, transparent to students (Marshall 2018). Importantly, exit tickets can also give voice to students who are otherwise silent in class, including English language learners and students "on the margins" of classroom life, and can draw your attention to who is being served in which ways, giving you critical information for shaping your practice to enhance equity and inclusivity.”
What is an exit ticket?
Backing up for a minute, let’s define an exit ticket. An exit ticket is a task that typically requires a short response from students. Teachers use exit tickets after an activity or learning period, and it can literally be the ticket to exit the room at the end of a period or a way for students to exit a part of the lesson. Exit tickets are not graded. Because they are not associated with a grade, students take on very little risk and can be honest about what they do and don’t understand, and may be more likely to ask questions they wouldn’t on a graded piece of writing.
Using exit tickets as formative assessments
Exit tickets can be used in any subject area at any grade level as formative assessments to provide teachers with authentic data, in real time.
“To be effective, an exit ticket should have specific prompts for students and take only about five minutes to complete. Students can record their responses on index cards, sticky notes, notebook paper, or online (e.g., Google Forms, Padlet, Schoology, etc.). Ideally, student responses inform the next stages of learning by highlighting whether teachers should clarify ideas, reteach them, extend them, offer practice, introduce new ideas, or restructure future instructional activities (Marshall 2018).”
Making exit tickets your own means designing (or using templates) for short responses that you can read fairly quickly. This can be as simple as a sticky note on which students respond to a prompt with a few words or a What, So What, Now What chart.
At the end of a day, class period, or activity, you can engage in a quick cycle of inquiry with the data.
1. Sort the data based on your own criteria from the lesson or for your specific students.
2. Examine each set of data. What do you notice? What needs attention?
3. Identify areas that need to be taught, retaught, or further investigated.
4. Adjust your next lesson to accommodate your findings.
5. Revise your next exit ticket (if needed) if you see that your prompt isn’t yielding useful data.
Using exit tickets as formative assessments is a promising practice that can be quick and can also support deep and differentiated learning in your classroom. Share with us your exit ticket practice below. Similar to Instant Pots, when you learn new ways to use them, it’s fun to share your findings with others!
By G. FAITH LITTLE
By the time you’ve cultivated a course curriculum, it’s easy to run out of steam as you move into building a unit plan, the detailed guide that will support your lesson planning. One way to make the most of your time and energy is to plan using a batching strategy. We can think of this like grocery shopping for the week.
If I walk down the aisles (online or in real life), filling my basket with ingredients for Monday (breakfast, lunch, dinner) then Tuesday (breakfast, lunch, dinner) and so on, the trip will take a while. If I shop by meal type, like breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, I cut down on the time and effort I spend. Of course, it’s even faster when I identify ingredients that can be used for more than one meal type. I pick up eggs to scramble for my breakfast sandwich and hard boil for my evening salads. I grab apples to go in my lunch box and morning smoothie.
Like grocery shopping, when we identify areas in our unit plan that we can create or gather in batches, we cut down on the time we need to design that part of our plan. For instance, if we want to include transition tools for teachers to use in their lesson planning, we could develop our list in a batch starting with our own ideas and incorporating others:
Batch your transitions depending on what you and your students need in the classroom — is it about needing time? Do you want students to read, write, or talk to one another, or should they quietly move from one activity to the next? Do your transitions depend on whether students are individually working or in groups? Batch them in a way that works best for you, and drop the transitions you’ve collected into the batch that makes most sense:
One you have your lists together, it’s simple to drop transition tools, one at a time, into logical places in each unit plan. Even quicker, and possibly more empowering for other teachers, is to turn the list into a menu of options teachers can use to find what works best for their teaching style, content area, and students.
Here’s a menu we developed for educators at Jewish Home Lifecare who were teaching students how to provide services that support health, individuality, and dignity to elders. This menu allowed novice teachers to review a number of options and find transitions that were a match for their teaching style and their students for that session. Even the simplest of menus can be a good jumping off point for generating new ideas!
Writing out a simple agenda is helpful for easing transitions — it makes it clear where we are and what's to come. Write agenda on the whiteboard (sample below):
Check items off the list as you complete each activity/task so students know where they are in the plan for the day. Invite a student to read off what’s next as you go through the day and/or to reiterate what they’ve already accomplished.
Bonus tip: Have a very chatty/active student? Make them Agenda Leader for the day. They should help you stay on schedule by recounting what has been done and reading what should happen next.
Time to learn!
Play this as a little game that will result in a call & response. The more you practice this, the more the students will come to experience it as a cue to look up and engage. It takes a bit of time, so be bold and power through until this becomes a ritual.
This also works to get them back on their current task if they get distracted. Play around with ways to use this method, modifying it to fit what works for you and your students.
Organizing student groups
One of the hardest transitions to make is moving from individual work to group work. An effective way to guide grouping is to use post-it notes with a number or a letter, colored paper, or even playing cards. Using one of these items helps students organize themselves in their groups all at once, rather than calling out every student's name individually or having students wander around the room "looking" for a group.
Two minutes before one activity ends and another begins, make announcements about how much time is left and what students will be doing next (including what they need to have to move forward).
You're ready to move on to the next instruction!