There are several ways to use exit slips as formative assessment tools. One way is to simply have the students complete 2 or 3 questions based on the lesson that was done in class. I use exit slips in this manner to avoid giving homework. I believe that some practice in math class is necessary. There are certain things I need my students to be able to do, and some students need to practice these things. I do not, however, believe that students should be practicing these things at home. Home is for family, community soccer, dance class, piano lessons, and all the other important things that our schools are eliminating.
I’m going to tell you a secret now. The students who don’t need to practice math will go home and do every single question you assign. It’s a waste of their time. The students who need to practice math will go home and do none of the questions you assign. Then you will argue with them, call their parents, and devise elaborate schemes to collect and grade homework. It’s a waste of your time. If I am not going to assign homework, I need to build places into my lessons for students to practice a little.
I do not grade these exit slips. I do not put any marks on them. I look at them and get feedback about how my students did with today’s material. I sort them quickly into three piles: Students that got it, students that partially got it, and students that didn’t get it at all. Based on Dylan Wiliam’s 5 key strategies, I would classify this use of exit slips as providing feedback that moves learners forward. Based on how the students do on their exit slips, I can adjust my instruction as necessary. I start the next day’s class with activities that allow the students also receive feedback.
Here’s how the old John’s math classes usually looked (based on 80 minute block schedules).
- 20 Minutes – Go over homework questions on the board that a few students had tried. Some students listened and copied down the solutions.
- 40 Minutes – Teach new material.
- 20 Minutes – Students had time to work on questions. Those that didn’t finish were expected to take their math home and complete the questions.
- Wash, rinse, and repeat 80 times per semester.
The old John typically assigned 10-15 homework questions. Very few students ever did more than a couple of them.
Here’s how exit slips as practice can really activate students, involve far more students in the practice component, and frankly, be a much more efficient use of class time.
- 20 Minutes – Students are grouped based on the previous day’s exit slips. Those that got it are sitting in small groups working on a few extension and/or application questions. Those that partially got it are in small groups correcting the errors on their exit slips and then working on a few practice questions that build to the extension and/or application questions. Those that didn’t get it are in small groups working with me. We do some re-teaching as necessary, and some practice. I don’t make up those questions. I just assign them from the textbook like I would have before.
- 40 Minutes – Students learn something new. (Notice that the old John “taught” something new, but the new John gets students to “learn” something new.)
- 20 Minutes – Students complete an exit slip with 2 or 3 questions based on what they were supposed to have learned. These slips are sorted quickly and used to begin the next day’s class.
In a method like this, every student does between 3 and 8 practice questions. That’s far more practice than I used to get them to do when I assigned homework regularly.