AFL: Exit Tickets

At the end of most lessons with every class I write an exit ticket up on my white board. It is met with either groans as it is more work, cheers as it signals the end of the lesson or complete apathy from certain year 9 students. It is one of my classroom routines and I consider it one of the most important aspects of my teaching.

Students answer one to three short, easy to mark questions linked directly to that lesson’s Learning Objective. In maths this is rather simple, how does it look in English, Science or History? Perhaps grammar questions, knowledge recall or key facts/dates?  I think it should be focused and content specific rather than a more general “3 things you learned” so that it is easy to mark and answers more clearly fall into strata of understanding.  I started by having pupils answer exit tickets on scrap paper, so they can physically hand exit tickets in and I can mark them without taking in books. I have since moved to them writing their exit tickets in their books in purple so that everything is in one place and it is easier to review the ticket the following lesson. The most important thing is that they are “swift to answer and swift to mark.”[1]

Three examples of an exit ticket on Lowest Common Multiples:

exit tickets

After the lesson I then mark the exit tickets by skimming the answers and giving each book an icon A, B or C.[2]  It takes approximately 5 minutes to mark a class set of exit tickets which is low effort and high impact.  As I go I mark on a post it note the students who particularly struggled so I can go straight to help them next lesson.  If all pupils make the same mistakes I know it is something I need to reteach the whole class.

This practise gives me a fantastic insight into how well the students have actually learned the particular topic from that lesson rather than having to go on gut feeling.  As Doug Lemov puts it in Teach Like a Champion 2.0:

“You’ll know how effective your lesson was, as measured by how well they learned it, not how well you thought you taught it.”

The exit ticket checks immediate understanding.  This is not the same as checking whether they have learned an idea, as Kris Boulton[3] writes:

“What exit tickets cannot check is whether that same person can still recall that next year, or a week later, or tomorrow even.”

Curriculum design and interleaving of topics is then required to ensure that this correct memory is reinforced and both its storage and retrieval strength reach the point that the idea has been learned. However they do check if the correct memory has been formed, if an idea has been understood during that lesson.

The main goal of the exit ticket is to inform planning for the next lesson, depending on how many of the students understood the main ideas correctly you can either move on or some amount of re-teaching may be required.  I usually do whole class feedback at the start of the next lesson on particular issues which I noticed in the exit tickets.

Examples of whole class feedback on a previous days exit ticket:

exit tickets2

This allows me to pick up on specific misconceptions early and hopefully head them off.  The students will then redraft their answers or attempt stretch and challenge questions based on the icon from their exit ticket.  In contrast to a regular plenary an exit ticket is a routine; a few structured questions directly linked to learning objectives and is to be regularly reviewed far more frequently than traditional bi-weekly marking. This means that the feedback the students have on their work is timely, frequent and acted on which are the main factors in ensuring it has the biggest impact.[4]

An exit ticket forces you to focus the lesson on what idea you wish the student to have understood by the end of it; if it is hard to think what the exit ticket would be for a lesson it maybe requires more planning towards a specific goal.

Exit tickets, when designed well, are high impact and low effort; they allow timely, frequent targeting of misconceptions and are a focused, effective routine for the end of my lessons.  I believe the use of exit tickets allows me to have the biggest impact on the progress of my pupils. As Harry Fletcher-Wood states in his article on the subject:

“The fundamental idea – frequent assessment of student understanding and rapid action – is incredibly powerful”[5]

For more about Exit Tickets by people far more experienced and talented than me, here are a selection of good articles on the subject.