Feature Friday: Formative Assessment Exit Tickets

It is important to keep all learners engaged, interested, and feeling successful. As part of this, the teacher will want to have a benchmark of understanding, and have a variety of different tools to use for measuring understanding.

These formative assessment exit tickets provide that in a flexible way. They can be used as exit tickets on a daily basis, as a transition at the end of a topic, or a jumping off point for a more formal assessment. There are a variety of different tools to asses student understanding in different formats. A few are specific to science, but most can be used for any subject area.

Exit Tickets

profile pic2Tara is a science teacher from upstate NY. She has taught General Science, Biology, Environmental Science, and Earth Science.
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Use Marketing to Engage Students

Companies spend billions of dollars on packaging and marketing for their products.  Why?  Because it works.  And, a similar approach to marketing can also work in the classroom to hook students.

I could go off on “kids these days,” but what it boils down to is that we need to teach the students in our classroom.  And they are part of a media and marketing filled world.  They are inundated with advertisements, clever packaging (like the eyes on cereal boxes that are actually designed to make eye contact with small children), and other marketing assaults.

And, because this is a language they are immersed in, as teachers, we can actually use that language to our advantage.  Market our courses, our lessons, even the novel we’ve selected (or had selected for us) to a classroom fluent– and generally receptive– to marketing messages.

Consider the names of units.  Can you spice it up?  Instead of “Asteroids and Comets” start the lesson off with “Ways to Die Sent from Space!”  Or instead of just teaching “A Christmas Carol” name the unit “Bah Humbug: Scrooge was Right.”   Make a unit called “Killer English” with mystery or crime related readings and writings.  Rename the “Roaring 20s” unit to “Criminals and Scandals of the 20s.”

Sell the lesson or novel.  My students are, at best, reluctant readers (okay, so really, they stab me in my little English teacher heart as they brag about not reading…)  But I still have to soldier on.  One novel I use, in a rare opportunity when we had some money for novels, was “The Big Sleep” by Raymond Chandler (one of my favorite authors.)  It’s usually one of the first books we read and students are skeptical based on title and cover… so I sell the book and by the time I’m done with my spiel, they’re already reading.

My spiel:  Okay, so, I have an alternative book if anyone has a problem reading a story that includes several murders, alcohol, smoking, nudity and drug use, please let me know… 

(Note: the book is from the 1940s, so the references to inappropriate subjects are actually very tame.  And it fit my students interests, once they were “sold” on the naughty parts.)

I had the fun, actually, of building my courses including an enticing name.  My pride-and-joy was Movies vs. Books.  I had parents and staff members who wanted to take my class, on title alone.  Set the tone right from the start.  And with this premise, I made my reluctant readers slog through Frankenstein so they could compare it to the movie and the cultural image.  And they did slog all the way through it.  The power of appeal.

What fun units or classes would you enjoy?  How could you tweak your approach to have more marketing appeal?
CDickson Profile PicClair Dickson, high school English teacher, likes free eTexts and Project Based Learning to stretch her meager budget.  Visit her store High School English on a Shoestring Budget to stretch your budget.
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Sunday Panel: Differentiating Instruction

Sunday Panel StickyWhat are some specific ways that you are able to differentiate for the various learners in your classroom or subject area?

EllenBrain7 (1)

 Ellen Weber:
I encourage students to use their full range of stronger intelligences in class. I suggest tasks they can do to meet rubric criteria we set together.

To understand a new concept for instance, they might play with words, do crosswords, compete in scrabble, debate, search for new ideas on the internet, write a blog, tell their best idea in 140 letters, or offer to speak at a local club.

The choice to differentiate is the choice to grow brainpower and it takes less effort when students come to the table with their strengths as tools.

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AlgebraSimplifiedIconDawn, Algebra Simplified:
A carefully crafted activity that has work geared for more than one ability level makes meeting the needs of all students at the same time much easier. Normally with these type of activities, the differentiation is so seamless that the students don’t even realize that it is happening. On the other hand, when differentiation is just obviously … well…different, student buy-in is key. I start with a class reminder of the benefits, a vote on who would like to experience the benefits, and an ardent request for student cooperation so that all can benefit.

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LanguageArtsClassroomLauralee,The Language Arts Classroom:
1. Task cards. Students all have assignments, and only I know which cards are more difficult. If I distribute them with partners, this also helps.

2. Choices/ Goals. If I allow students to have personal choices or make specific goals, they are tailored to their own needs. I must approve of the goals, but as long as a student is working toward improvement, that counts. (This especially works well in public speaking. Students can personalize what will make them better speakers).

3. Specifics to world. Right now is election season. Discussing the class’ interests in advertising techniques, word choice, and picture choice for campaign mailers and other commercials allows students to bring their personal stories to the class. Students have different perspectives, and encouraging explanation empowers students to understand different points of view. Specifically, bringing the world to the classroom empowers students who may not normally contribute.

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OC_BEACH_TEACHER_revised_finalKimberly, OC Beach Teacher:
In earlier posts this month, I mentioned using literature circles and choices to differentiate instruction. Besides those strategies, I have a few additional tools. For instance, with students who may need additional support in my class, I make simple adjustments to assignments: providing a word bank on a vocabulary worksheet, reducing the number of exercises on a grammar handout, or shortening the page requirement for an essay.

On the other hand, to provide additional challenges for students, I offer enrichment opportunities. For example, I recently offered extra points to students who took advantage of a vocabulary video contest at The New York Times Learning Network. Furthermore, I always share writing contest information for local and national competitions. Not only do my students benefit from the enrichment, but sometimes they even find themselves winning a contest!

How do YOU differentiate instruction?  Please share your ideas in the comments sections.

Feature Fridays: Inequalities Hangman

Do you struggle to reach all students when it comes to independent practice of algebra skills? Adding the twist of HANGMAN to math work has enabled me to engage more learners in my classroom. Sure it spices up humdrum math drills, but I really love that I can reach all ability levels with this style of practice. Check out the preview for this Linear Inequalities Hangman.

inequalities hangman thumbnail

Two levels of the same worksheet is just the starting point for differentiation. A variation of messages on worksheets allows students to collaborate yet discourages cheating. Encourage those students who finish well ahead of all the others to create new messages to use on future students. A blank template is provided. Narrow down letter choices for students who just need a little extra help. Finally, for that student who really is much lower than all the rest, pull out that blank template again. Let them choose a message and correctly solve only those 6 letters. Then, let them experience a moment of pride (or sadistic pleasure) as you publish (as quickly as possible) that worksheet for other students to use.


AlgebraSimplifiedIconDawn is a secondary Algebra teacher in Maryland with a B.S. in Secondary Mathematics Education and a Masters in Information Science and Learning Technologies.
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The Power of Projects in Engagement

Projects are nothing new in education.  One of the great things about projects is the ability to engage students with them.

Here’s how I see projects engaging my students:

1. The Power of Choice.  As Kim, OCBeachTeacher discussed earlier this week, choice is a key component of engagement.  The advantage of choice is that students get a sense of control over their work.  They can pick something that is interesting to them or aligns with their preferences or skill set.  Particularly with reluctant learners, half of my battle is getting them to do the work– so if I can entice them with a fun idea, they may actually complete it, and in the process they may be learning or practicing skills.

This might include the type of project or activity– for example, when we do predictions or summaries on a section of text, I frequently give students the choice to write their response as a narrative or to create a short comic strip to demonstrate their knowledge.  Some students, who find physical writing laborious but are artistically inclined jumped at the opportunity to use a different medium.

It might also include the topic or approach to an issue as well.  I almost never give just one essay topic.  While abstract questions are great for test preparation, they are torture to concrete thinkers– these students can demonstrate their ability to write with organization and support when not confronted with a question that, to them is absurd.  Similarly, the wording of thinking vs. feeling can make a difference in an essay question.  Different choices allow the student to show what they really do know (and sometimes this is because barriers to success or reminders of past failures are removed.)

Every body is a Genius

2. Variety. Related to the above, variety means that students are liable to find something they actually would like (or tolerate) completing.  Students get to try out different writing types, for example, or can try a multimedia project if they hate essays.  They can demonstrate their knowledge in a video game design, which may show more than an essay ever would of their critical thinking.  Being an English teacher and knowing that part of my job is getting them to write, I do always include some component of reflection on their project, where they may write about what they chose to do, elements of the text they used, and other things.  But it’s not a dreaded essay, and at the end of a project, they don’t seem to mind.

4. Real world relationship. I try to include real-world projects that appeal to students– things like designing a video game or creating the movie version or mapping locations from the text.  In addition, I emphasize the real-world equivalent of other tasks: comparing two items critically is important in choosing products at home or work; understanding context is important in understanding a message; and, in general, being able to respond thoughtfully and with good support is good in everything from asking for a raise to negotiating with a lover.  For reluctant learners, many of mine who are unlikely to go to college, understanding when they would use this later helps– so making real world related projects shows them this connection.

My students, who might not show what they know or understand in an essay or on a test, have come up with some truly amazing projects that showed depth of knowledge and analysis. Sometimes, they surprise even themselves, which is also great for reluctant learners who frequently, and incorrectly, think they are “not smart.”  Nothing like a taste of success to keep them going, in school, and beyond.


CDickson Profile PicClair Dickson, high school English teacher, likes free eTexts and Project Based Learning to stretch her meager budget.  Visit her store High School English on a Shoestring Budget to stretch your budget.
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Giving Choices to Engage Students

Whenever possible, I provide my students with choices in their learning. It often gives them a sense of freedom and autonomy. Not only does giving choices engage them, but it is also a great strategy for differentiating instruction. Here are two ways that I incorporate choice into my instruction:

1. I offer a variety of topics on writing assignments. For instance, students select from a list of 20 – 30 issues for research and then use their research to write a formal argument essay. With this many topics, my students usually find a subject that is interesting and relevant to them. However, by also providing some limits on the choices, it saves me from reading 50 cliché essays on the legalization of marijuana or school uniforms.
Lately I’ve been selecting the topics from an excellent feature in The New York Times Learning Network called “Room for Debate.” The newspaper invites columnists to provide commentary on current news events. For instance, recent topics include the following:

• corporations that pay female employees to delay motherhood by freezing their eggs,
• the United States’ desire for the Turkish government to help fight the terrorist group ISIS,
• right to die standards and physician assisted suicide (once again in the news because of 29-year-old Brittany Maynard’s decision to end her life as a result of her brain cancer)

There are hundreds of issues for teachers and students to choose from as the feature began in January of 2009.

2. Of course I am required by my school district to assign a certain number of essays and prepare my students for their upcoming PARCC assessments, but I can usually find one or two assignments in which students choose from a Menu of assessment projects. For example, after my students read excerpts from Henry David Thoreau’s Walden Pond, they can choose from nine assignments. Because I link the reading to learning about The Tiny House Movement, some of the selections extend their learning about it. Here are a few choices:

• Take a walk outside (woods, beach, park, etc.) and jot down your observations. Afterwards, write a short reflective essay incorporating your ideas about nature and life. How are they connected? How are you affected by nature? Do you find comfort in it? Do you reflect the moods of nature? Explain.
• Create a three-dimensional model for a “Tiny House” that you would want to live in. Be sure to include furniture and other possessions that you would need. Write a short reflection explaining how you think living in this house would change your life.
• Find a song with lyrics that echo some of the ideas in the Walden excerpts. Write an explication of the song and compare it to the ideas from the text. Use specific examples from both the song and the excerpts.

Furthermore, by giving students the Menu, I am able to provide them with opportunities to demonstrate other intelligences and talents. It’s a great way for me to discover more about them, also!


OC_BEACH_TEACHER_revised_finalKim, the OCBeach Teacher,  is a National Board Certified English teacher who is currently teaching American Literature and AP English Literature and Composition.  She shares classroom ideas and tips on her OCBeachTeacher Facebook Page.
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Sunday Panel: Addressing Multiple Intelligences

Sunday Panel StickyHoward Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligence suggests that people have a variety of intelligences including musical, visual, verbal, logical, kinesthetic, etc. How do you consider multiple intelligences when planning lessons and engaging learners?

profile pic2Tara, Science in the City:I think multiple intelligences are very important to keep students engaged. I try to think about different ways to practice with a concept. Perhaps students have a choice, or perhaps they move through stations, but they get to practice the same concept through several different ways. It is important for them to see that some students do better at some things than others, but they can learn from each of them.

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EllenBrain7 (1)Ellen Weber:My PhD developed an approach to use mulltiple intelligences with upper grades and adults. Called Mita approach, Howard Gardner listed this in his book, “Intelligence Reframed,” and named it pioneer work for MI with teens.

Students start class by completing a FREE survey http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Survey-to-Discover-Your-Multiple-Intelligences-477656 and every class is built upon using their strengths to apply course content in innovative ways as they learn and engage new facts.

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CDickson Profile PicClair, High School English on a Shoestring Budget: I started reading our texts aloud to my students to keep everyone together, but in the process, I discovered that a majority of my students were likely auditory learners– hearing the texts, they said, greatly improved their understanding of it.  When I can’t read to students, I encourage those who struggle with reading to consider trying auditory books (lots of stories are available online or off in auditory format).

For many assignments and projects, I try to allow for choices.  Boardwork may include the choice to respond in narrative or comic strip.  Projects allow for creativity and choice– for personal writing, I might give the choice of narrative or multimedia project.  But, there are somethings that only get one format (like essays)– so we discuss that sometimes in life, you get choices.  And other times, you have to just do what you’re given.

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TPT ProfileSara, Ms. Fuller’s Teaching Adventures:I remember in college learning all about this and practicing making plans that allow students to demonstrate their understanding of the material based off of their intelligence type. Therefore, I have developed several projects that allow students to perform, or do creative writing, draw, etc. However- I keep thinking now- how or why do we do this if the ultimate testing is going to be standardized and completely disregard our students’ learning styles? It’s frustrating to me to say the least.

Now in terms of whether students are auditory or visual learners- I try to present my material most often in presentations so students can read along or listen. Hopefully that helps reach the majority of students.

black T logoJackie, Room 213: I try to be aware of all learning styles and create lessons with a lot of variety.  I’ve been focusing a lot on kinesethic learners lately, trying to get some movement into most lessons.  My favourite thing to do is the walk-and-talk.  When students have a complex idea to consider, or when they are planning their own essays/assignments, I’ll let them go for a five minute walk with a partner–and a pen.  They are supposed to talk about the task at hand as they go.  Sometimes it’s hard to get them moving for every lesson, so if it’s a class that has them sitting for a while, I’ll give them a short walk break half way through.  For the most part, students really appreciate the chance to move and they don’t take advantage of these situations and use them as intended.