October 13, 2014

Checking for Understanding with Exit Tickets

Guest post by Greg Coleman 
from Mr. Elementary Math

During my early years as a classroom teacher I felt that exit tickets were yet another initiative or showy thing to do. However, as the years progressed I came to realize the importance of exit tickets for both my students and myself as an educator.

As educators, it is essential that we check our students’ understanding along the way. Formative assessments help us to monitor student learning so that we can adjust our teaching practices to improve student success. Formative assessment can be verbal (i.e. students responding to questions), silent signals (i.e. thumbs up and thumbs down), or written (i.e. quick writes or journal writing). Exit tickets are one type of formative assessment educators can use to check for student understanding.

Depending on your purpose, exit tickets can assist you in determining ...
  • what students already know about a topic 
  • what students learned from a specific lesson
  • what misconceptions individual students have about a specific skill or concept
  • what next steps are required for individual students, groups of students, or the entire class
In this blog post, I will focus on written response exit tickets, especially as they might be used in mathematics instruction. However, many of the strategies can be applied to other subject areas as well.

If you are thinking, “How can I get started with exit tickets?”consider the following three questions:
  • What do you want to find out about your students’ understanding at the conclusion of the lesson?
  • How much time do you want to allocate for your students to complete the exit ticket?
  • What format do you want to use for the exit ticket?

Show What You Know Board
One method that has worked well for me has been the Show What You Know Board. At the conclusion of a lesson students respond to a question by recording their answers on post it notes. Using post it notes makes the board reusable and efficient. The image below shows a picture of a board that I used after I taught a lesson on place value.

I wanted to find out whether the students could look at a base ten model, determine its value, and justify their thinking. The students were asked if they agreed or disagreed with the following statement, “Mike believes the model below the board represents the number 1,405. Do you agree or disagree? Explain why in writing or with a picture.” I would recommend having students put their initials at the bottom of their post it notes. This will help you identify which response belongs to which student.

A benefit of using the Show What You Know Board is the ability to see the responses of a group of students in one space. I always find this to be a very effective tool in the classroom because the students are required to take a position and explain their rationale behind it. Besides strategically planning a question that aligns with your learning goal, this method requires very little preparation after the initial setup.

Paper Exit Tickets (and a Freebie!)
Another effective strategy to check for understanding is to provide each student with a paper exit ticket. When creating effective paper exit tickets, I consider the following to be 3 critical components:
  1. What does the student know? In this section students respond to a given question or statement. This is a place for students to show their work. 
  2. What does the student think he/she knows? In this section students rate how well they understood the learning goal. This is a section for students to reflect on their own learning. 
  3. What does the student’s work actually show? In this section the teacher takes notes on the student’s response. This is a place for teachers to reflect. Did the student meet the learning goal? Does this student have any misconceptions? Does the student’s perception of what he/ she knows match what he/she can do?
The image below shows an example of an exit ticket that I created using the 3 critical components.

I have discovered several major advantages to using this exit ticket format. First it helps to guide my understanding of student strengths and areas for growth. I can clearly see the misconceptions that individual students have with a concept or skill. In addition, these exit tickets are great for keeping track of student growth. If you would like to download the template for the Show What You Know Board and the sample exit ticket, click here.

Exit tickets are powerful tools that can be used to:
  • drive discussions during student conferences
  • assist with planning your small group instruction and/or centers
  • provide parents with critical information during conferences
  • provide a quick lesson closure

More Exit Ticket Formats
Take a look at some additional exit ticket formats that can be readily used in the classroom:
  • Guess What I Learned? – Students write a brief note (2 – 3 sentences) to their parents explaining a concept they learned.
  • Draw It & Record It – Students draw one or two concepts from a lesson. The students record 1 – 2 sentences explaining what they drew. 
  • 3 - 2 - 1 - In a journal or on index cards, students record the following:
3 – things you learned 
2 – questions you still have 
1 – idea or thought that stuck with you

Although this process takes time, I challenge you to try using exit tickets at least 2 – 3 times each week. To make the transition easier, consider starting this process with one content area (ie. math ). As you become more comfortable add on other content areas. If you decide to use exit tickets in your classroom, notice the difference they make on how you deliver and modify instruction to meet the needs of your students.

Greg Coleman is a Kdg. – 5th Math Instructional Coach in Atlanta, Georgia. He loves to share math ideas and resources with elementary school teachers. You can find more ideas at his blog, Mr Elementary Math.


  1. Exit tickets have completely revolutionized my teaching. I love the information it gives me about who understands and what misconceptions are in the classroom. I love the format of your exit ticket!

    The Math Maniac

  2. Exit Tickets are wonderful tools for guiding instruction. Thanks for sharing how they have worked for you Tara. Your feedback is always valuable and helpful.

    Mr Elementary Math

  3. Greg--

    Great post! Thanks so much for these wonderful exit slip ideas! I love to use them in different ways, and so do my kids. I will put your suggestions to good use...

    All the best--

    1. Sarah thanks for the feedback. I am glad to hear that the exit tickets will be an addition to the things that you currently use in your class.

      Mr Elementary Math

  4. Wonderful ways to use Exit Tickets. I am thinking of implementing them; I currently use white board checks, post-it notes, etc. to check for understanding. THANKS again and stop by anytime!

    1. White board checks and post-it -notes are great ways to check for understanding. Thanks for sharing. If you decide to implement any of the ideas please let me know how they go!

      Mr Elementary Math

  5. I have loved doing this! It is such a quick way to assess . I have it by the door and we use post its. Quick and the kids really like it!

    1. Gracie,
      I am glad to hear that you have enjoyed using the exit ticket ideas. It is always refreshing to hear how they work in different classrooms. Thanks again for your great feedback.

      Mr Elementary Math

  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  7. This is something that I'll be starting this next week with my students since it is the beginning of our 2nd nine weeks. Thanks for explaining it a little better than I understood it!

  8. Where can I get a copy of the Exit Ticket? Thank you

  9. I have been using these this year. My kids love them and what a great way to get quick feedback. I even use these for quick mental math games.

  10. I have been using these this year. My kids love them and what a great way to get quick feedback. I even use these for quick mental math games.

  11. I love your board! I was looking for a way to do exit tickets without having to print papers everyday and this works perfectly! By the way, I teach secondary social studies. Thanks for the great idea!

  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

  13. Thanks Tara, the exit ticket is fantastic!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.