When I first heard about the exit ticket, I thought it was a great idea. It seemed like a way to keep myself accountable to assess every student, and it seemed like a way to keep students accountable to do something to show me they’d learned what I’d taught. It also seemed like a decent classroom management tool – if you didn’t pay attention and do the exit ticket task, you couldn’t leave.
My problem with the exit ticket developed as I began to understand how much I should be focusing on long-term memory and not short-term memory if I truly cared more about life-long learning and less about the grade on the vocab quiz on Friday. Soon I couldn’t reconcile the two ideas; how could I say that any student, even the best, most attentive student, could do anything with the language if they’d just heard the concept? The fact is, I can’t tell you when that student will be able to perform a given task from their long-term memory, where it really counts. So I killed the exit ticket.
But really, you don’t have to. Doesn’t it seem this is the way it is with almost any idea? If you don’t evaluate the principle behind the activity, it often spirals in to a very bad idea. But when you keep your language learning principles in mind you can usually tweak any idea to make it very good. Here are four potential alternatives to the traditional exit ticket.
If you haven’t seen what Megan and Kara of the Creative Language Class blog and their colleagues are doing with stamp sheets, you should check it out. Basically, students have a sheet that organizes, in circles for example, the I Can statements for their current unit. As students progress and can accomplish the tasks on the sheet, the teacher stamps that circle. My idea was to try this as an exit ticket. When I got the chance to teach Spanish 1 at the recent Camp Musicuentos event, I used a smaller version with I Can statements which were the three goals of my lesson plan. I was able to talk to many students, but not all, to verify that they could do what I was asking them to do. This accomplished several goals and gave me some tips for you:
– If you have to show daily progress and/or give a daily grade, this is a perfect way to get that.
– Use it to make sure you’re hearing from every student on every goal. In one class I only spoke with about 1/4 of the students, in the other, almost all. So I knew exactly whom I needed to speak to the next day. Also, if a student can’t accomplish the goal, simply don’t accept the paper. If you don’t have a student’s sheet, you know that student still needs to work on it.
– Use it for the goals in the class period, just like an exit ticket, but don’t look at it as something you can check off and say “Ok, my kids can do that, now on to something else.” If you have a goal on the sheet that you’ve just taught, fine, but remind yourself that all you’re assessing is if students were paying attention today, not whether they’ll be able to do this next week. You know what they’ll need to be able to do that, too – lots of practice between now and then!
– Repeat and build on previous stamp sheets in order to check their unit stamp sheet. I thought, if my student can use le gusta to tell me what a classmate likes today, and then I repeat that same stamp in three days, and again twice next week, then I’m more hopeful that they actually can do it and I can go ahead and stamp the same goal on their unit sheet.
In a recent #langchat that inspired this post, Colleen offered a tip that I absolutely loved. I think it’s my favorite overhaul of the exit ticket. Instead of pretending that students can typically acquire useful language within one class period, how about shifting the emphasis to how they feel about what they did in the class period? Colleen suggests that we have students wrap up the class with some reflective self-reporting: “Today I was proud that I…” By making students reflect in this way, you’ll force them to think about their intrinsic motivation and their successes instead of things that went wrong. Did I mention I LOVE THIS IDEA?!
Timed free write
Mira’s suggestion was to have students do a timed free write. I’m envisioning this as a 3-minute closing activity in which students write anything about anything. Only requirements are that it has to be in the target language. Who knows what they’ll come up with? You could offer a photograph or a story beginning as inspiration.
Something old & something new
To really tweak the problem of the exit ticket, simply use it to assimilate the old with the new instead of pretending you’re actually assessing what you just taught. If you worked on prepositions last week, and you’re working on house vocabulary today, show a picture and ask students to say where something is: “The book is on the table. The lamp is next to the sofa.” Recycle in a new context and that’s some memory-boosting exit ticket! An added benefit here is that you’ll learn which of your students are struggling with an “old” skill and may need you to refocus on it.
What are your suggestions for how to make the exit ticket better reflect our goal of fostering long-term memory?