Using Exit Tickets as Formative Assessments in an Elementary Math Classroom

Students in modern day classrooms are being tested at an un-precedented rate. The constant pressure to perform on high-stakes standardized testing is leaving students, stressed out and overworked. It is time for teachers to move away from these strict formal assessments and to prioritize frequent, low-pressure informal assessments in the classroom.

Informal assessments allow teachers to do quick check-ins of student knowledge without administering a traditional standardized test. Informal assessments offer a way to authentically, accurately, and frequently evaluate student knowledge without surfacing the negative effects of standardized testing. One example of an informal assessment- the exit ticket method- is a perfect example of how informal assessments can be an asset to educators. This blog will unpack the uses and benefits of exit tickets while specifically examining how they can be implemented in an elementary math classroom.

What is an exit ticket?

An exit ticket is a quick, brief, informal assessment of student knowledge. Exit tickets are a tool that educators use to see how students are doing with a specific lesson, skill, or concept. The name for this assessment plays on the fact that it can be seen as a student’s “ticket” to leave the classroom or move on after a lesson.

Exit tickets are typically just one or two questions. The content on an exit ticket should be directly related to the content taught that day. It can be straight forward, such as

“Solve the following problem and show your work. What is the sum 0f 23 and 16?”

Or, it can be open ended, such as

“What is one thing you struggled with in class today?”

Like all informal assessments, the goal of an exit ticket is to determine where students are in their learning progression. An exit ticket should let you know who is mastering content, who is struggling, what mistakes students are making, and what you may need to focus on when the following lesson is presented. Over time, informal assessments like exit tickets can allow educators to track and monitor student growth.

How can exit tickets be used in an elementary math classroom?

When implemented properly, exit tickets can be an incredible tool for educators to evaluate student performance over time and across learning standards. Let’s take a look at how a third-grade math teacher would implement an exit ticket into their routine.

  • Step 1: Plan    

Exit tickets should be tailor made to fit the lesson or concept that is being taught each day. They do not have to be cumulative or extra challenging- just a simple check to see if the student has mastered the task. For example, a third-grade math teacher, is teaching a 3-day unit on using models to solve single-digit multiplication problems. She planned one exit ticket for each day of the unit, making sure the ticket each day aligned with the day’s learning goals. Here are the exit tickets she created.

Day 1:

Name: ______________________________________
Use an array to solve the following problem: 4 x 3 = ?

Day 2:

Name: _____________________________________
Use equal groups to solve the following problem: 5 x 2 = ?

Day 3:

Name: ______________________________________
Use an array to solve the following problem: 7 x 6 = ?

Each exit ticket is only one question and checks for mastery of a specific skill. The teacher will now teach each lesson as normal but give each student an exit ticket when the lesson is complete.

  • Assess:

The key to effectively implementing exit tickets is to be consistent in delivery. Daily exit tickets will be most effective in monitoring student progress, especially when given in the same way. This teacher chooses to pass out the exit tickets, set a 3-minute timer, and allow students to complete the work. Extra time is not given as the point is to quickly see whether or not students clearly understand the concept. Her students go to PE directly after math class, so she has them line up with their exit tickets and collects each one as they leave the door. This system is easy, consistent, and also fun for students. Educators can create their own routine that works for them, but consistency is key!

  • Review:

Exit tickets should be graded the same day they are given. The great thing about exit tickets is that grading only takes a few minutes since they are only one or two questions and every ticket has the same answer. Once graded, they will provide valuable information on what students are struggling, what errors students are making, and whether or not you need to adjust whole-group or small-group lessons the next day to address possible errors.

How can educators monitor progress over time through exit tickets?

Consistent use of exit tickets can be one of the most informative tools out there when it comes to tracking progress over time. With just 1 quick question a day, educators can see if students are making growth on certain concepts or standards. Additionally, they can look back and see what review each child may need.

The easiest way to do this is by having a gradebook or portfolio where you record exit ticket answers. A digital portfolio, such as the GRADED+ app, can be a huge asset to educators when it comes to exit tickets. Scanning and storing the exit tickets will easily give educators a hub to evaluate student performance. It is quick, streamlined, and focuses on actual student work and progress. Educators can not only look back to see scores with this app, but open up pictures of the actual work students did to review misconceptions and errors. This is a gold mine for educators to close learning gaps and increase academic advancement in the classroom. To learn more about tracking exit tickets with the GRADED+ app, please visit: https://www.solvedconsulting.com/graded.html.


Are Tablets Helping or Hurting Students?

Tablets seem to be everywhere these days. While it’s relatively common to see tablets in cafes, restaurants, and supermarkets, you may not be as used to seeing them in schools. While tablets promise an added degree of convenience and can make some educational tasks more accessible, many teachers still doubt whether tablets are genuinely beneficial during the school day.

Finding the right balance between technology and traditional coursework can cause departmental friction. So, if you’re an administrator who’s wondering how to allocate their technology budget or an educator looking for a definitive answer on the impact of tablets in the classroom, here are a few things you should know.

Traditional handwriting methods may improve recall and retention over tablet-based notetaking.

In some ways, tablets are helpful devices for students to keep up with their schoolwork. Students can use them to take notes in class, research, and complete homework assignments. Tablets are also a valuable way for students to stay connected with their classmates and teachers. There are several apps and tools that students, teachers, and administrators can use for educational purposes, and some schools are now providing tablets to their students.

However, despite their increased prevalence, tablets aren’t ideal as your sole mode of education. If you’re going to include technology in the classroom, you should exercise moderation and ensure that you still emphasize core skills like handwriting and cursive. Psychological studies show that handwriting plays a vital role in a student’s retention and recall in the classroom and when studying.

Plus, while many tablets come packaged with tools that help students annotate, highlight, and share text, it may not be as engaging as working with a traditional textbook where a student can use sticky notes, highlighters, pens, and pencils to annotate, underline, and hone in on different themes.

Even in online-only classroom settings where most (if not all) materials are digital, it still helps to encourage learners to use pen and paper for notetaking, homework, and other course projects. However, balancing handwriting with tablet-based learning takes a deft hand. SOLVED can help you find the happy medium.

There are still effective ways to introduce technology to the classroom.

SOLVED Consulting makes it simple to increase tablet presence in your classes without sacrificing learning quality. Our goal is to develop applications and tools that help you streamline your grading process, improve homework collection, and deliver feedback to students that need extra time and attention.

If you’re ready to learn more about SOLVED for classrooms or how our innovative applications can benefit churches, yoga studios, and other businesses, contact us today. From our Graded app feature to our school app builders, we have something for everyone. Get started to make the most of the digital and physical tools at your disposal.


5 Ways that Standardized Testing is Negatively Impacting Students

Students are under more pressure than ever to perform, even though many are still struggling to close learning gaps brought on by the pandemic. With learning environments changing and educational technology advancing, there is a huge opportunity for teachers to be adaptive and innovative in their response to assessing student learning. However, many schools still utilize high-stakes standardized testing to evaluate student performance. From primary school all the way to graduation, it seems standardized testing is a pillar of the educational experience. While it may provide some data and insight into student performance, teachers should be cautious as the high stakes testing environment may be making a negative impact on students.

Standardized Testing

Standardized Testing Causes Stress Among Students

After a crazy few years, students are entering classrooms with their stress levels at an all-time high. Classrooms can often be a safe place for students to relieve stress. However, with the cultural emphasis placed on standardized testing, educators may be contributing to the increased stress levels of adolescents.

Harvard’s School of Education studied the effects of standardized testing on students’ well-being and found that standardized tests are a major source of stress for students. The report explains that students associate standardized testing with increased pressure and a potential for consequence if they don’t perform well (Simpson, 2016). High stakes testing creates an environment of stress and anxiety for students as they feel the need to succeed and make themselves, their teachers, and their families proud. Additionally, a separate study done at MIT showed that children displayed increased cortisol (stress hormone) levels during standardized tests. The same study recognized a trend that increased cortisol levels led to underperforming on tests (Heissel, 2021). With that being said, the stress spike students experience may skew test results negatively, leading to an inaccurate measure of students’ abilities.

Standardized Testing Stress can Create Negative Physical Symptoms

In addition to the psychological impact that standardized testing has on students, the stress brought on by testing may cause harmful physical impacts as well. Northcentral university’s School of Education studied the mental health effects of standardized tests on high school students in an English Language Learners program. The study found that many participants self-reported changes to their health habits around the time of standardized tests, such as appetite changes and disruptions in sleeping patterns (Booker De Carbo, 2021). As adults, we are able to identify that stress impacts our body in many ways such as the quality of our sleep and appetite.  This research highlights that students have similar experiences, and that standardized testing can be a huge trigger for these adverse effects.

Standardized Testing Can Decrease Student Motivation

Teachers place a heavy emphasis on students’ achievement on standardized tests. Often times, this means that educators will use rewards as motivators to score high. Research has actually shown that the more teachers offer rewards such as treasure box, homework passes, class parties, or any other prize, the less intrinsic motivation students actually have (Amrein & Berliner, 2003). The holistic motivation to be an all-around great student starts to fade as the extrinsic motivators revolving around a specific reward become important. This research implies that testing culture may actually lead to overall decreased levels of student motivation.

Standardized Testing 2

Standardized Testing can Decrease Instructional Quality

A phrase often mentioned when discussing standardized testing is teaching to the test. Teaching to the test can be described as prioritizing content that will appear on a test over other content areas, as well as spending class time teaching testing strategies, question types, and other test-related lessons. A study done at the Harvard Graduate School of Education found that the more time teachers spent on test preparation, the lower the actual quality of the instruction was (Blazar, 2017). As teachers dedicate class time to “teaching to the test”, students lose out on opportunities for engaging, enriching, and meaningful lessons.

Standardized Testing May Discriminate Against Low-Income Students

One of the most alarming findings around standardized testing is that it may discriminate against low-income students. Education Week released an article outlining some of the ways this is true (Kohn, 2000). For one, test questions on standardized test sometimes require background context or knowledge that lower-income students may not have. This inherently creates an edge for students with access to a plethora of life experiences. Additionally, many families hire tutors or sign up for classes that prepare their children for standardized tests. Whether its elementary state tests or the SAT, access to training that low-income families cannot afford gives affluent families an unfair advantage.

These are just some of the many harmful impacts that an emphasis on high-stakes standardized testing can have on students. While standardized tests can be valuable sources of data, it is incredibly important that teachers do not make them the center of students’ educational experience. Implementation of frequent, low-pressure informal assessments to constantly monitor student growth and progress is a much more accurate and student-friendly way to measure student achievement. It is easier than ever for educators to keep track of students’ growth through portfolios and formative assessments with the emergence of educational technology platforms like Graded+.

Graded+ allows educators to simply scan student work that is easily filed into a portfolio, with access to rubric grading and categorized portfolio folders. Through the use of apps like Graded+, educators can begin to step away from the culture of over-testing and begin to focus on growth, progress, and consistency of student work. To learn more about how Graded+ can positively impact your classroom, please visit https://www.solvedconsulting.com/graded.html.


Shifting the Data Conversation to Student Work

Educators are inundated with assessment data, state test data, summative assessment data, district-wide assessment data, practice test data. Here is some interesting data: all of that data isn’t improving student performance. According to NAEP results, there has been little to no movement in pre-pandemic math and reading scores across the United States.

After a decades-long attempt to push data at educators, it’s time to shift the conversation back to the most important data: actual student work. Take Ajami, for example. Assessment data shows she is two years below grade level in math class. But what exactly is Ajami struggling with, why is she struggling and what specific actions can her teachers take to support her?

Looking at her actual work will give educators concrete next steps. The past two days her math class has been focused on the following NY Next Generation Learning Standard:

Standard: NY-6.NS.5 — Understand that positive and negative numbers are used together to describe quantities having opposite directions or values. Use positive and negative numbers to represent quantities in real-world contexts, explaining the meaning of 0 in each situation.

Yesterday her math teacher assigned the following one-question Exit Ticket as a formative assessment. In addition to the question, you can see Ajami’s responses below.

Using Ajami’s student work as “data”, we can determine that she is struggling to represent “situations” with positive and negative numbers. How can we provide targeted instructional support?

  1. Ensure ELL teacher does small group support on situational words such as “backward” and “sea surface”.
  2. Assign iReady intervention lessons on “representing positive and negative numbers”.
  3. Provide targeted small group support to Ajami with more opportunities to explain her thinking when representing positive and negative numbers.
  4. Ask Ajami to come up with her own examples of positive and negative numbers using real-world scenarios.

In summary, student work is the ultimate form of data — it provides educators with insight into how students are thinking. Teachers sharpen their pedagogy when they recognize why students are struggling. Using student work, new teaching strategies, intervention plans and assignments can be drawn up with real purpose and specificity.

Check out how GRADED+ will help your school capture, store and use student work to improve the teaching and learning process for both students and teachers.