4 Quick Tips for Using Exit Slips in the Classroom

exit slips in upper elementary and middle school classrooms

There sure was a learning curve the year I was moved from teaching third graders in a self-contained setting, to teaching math and science to different groups of fifth-graders. I had to learn how to manage older students, who switched classes and were only with me for a set amount of minutes each day. Gone were the days where I had one group of students all day long, allowing me to catch up with each child at different points throughout the day. I knew that since my time was limited with each class, I had to make the most of every moment. 

I began to implement exit slips to help me get a pulse of student understanding after the day's lessons. Not only did the use of exit slips help me to grasp student understanding, but it also provided students with the opportunity to reflect on their own understanding of the objectives taught, holding them accountable for their own learning.

Here are some helpful tips to use when implementing the exit slips in your classroom.

Teach Your Expectations

holding students accountable for learning
Teach your students how to fill out an exit slip when you teach all of your classroom expectations at the beginning of the year. Like any other strategy, you implement in your classroom, completing an exit slip must be explicitly taught. I use four levels of understanding for my exit slips. At the start of the year, we go over each level, what it means, and how students can tell what level of understanding they are at after each lesson. I have the four levels hanging up in my classroom, as well as a small sign next to the exit slip basket. On each exit slip, I expect students to write the topic or objective of the lesson, what level of understanding they are at, and to give a reason or example that proves they are at that level. Sometimes I will write a problem or pose a question and have them complete it on their exit slips. Other times they just express their understanding using their own words. Grab this "levels of understanding" printable for free at the bottom of this post.

Keep It Simple and Use Consistently

The exit slips that I use are open-ended. This is helpful for both the students and myself for many reasons:

  • Students always know how to complete the exit slips.
  • They can be used for any subject and any topic.
  • I only make copies of one type of exit slip and always have them on hand.
  • Exit slips can still be used when a substitute is in the classroom.
By using the same exit slips consistently, students understand how to complete them, improve on their reflections skills, and become accountable for their own learning.

Ditch the Names

My classroom runs on student numbers! My homework bins, cubbies, notebooks, everything is labeled with classroom numbers, so our exit slips are no different. I have students use their classroom numbers instead of names so that they feel more comfortable sharing their true understanding of the lesson on the exit slips. At the beginning of the year, we talk all about growth mindset and not comparing your own learning to others' learning. As time goes on and students feel comfortable in our classroom community, they are able to complete the exit slips with honest reflections.

Use Colored Slips

One teacher hack that I have found to be helpful for using exit slips with multiple groups of students is to color code the exit slips. With two sections of fifth-grade math and science, I use white exit slips for one group of students and use Astrobrights colored copy paper for the second group of students. This helps me quickly sort the exit slips once they are collected, review them, and adjust my lessons for the next day. Grab the exit slips that I use for free at the bottom of this post.

There are so many benefits to using exit slips in the classroom. Exit slips are not just for classrooms that switch classes, but for any classroom. They are a simple way to connect with students, have evidence of student growth, address student's individual needs, and reflect on your own teaching.  

Looking for more ideas for holding students accountable for their learning? Check these out and grab the freebies along the way!

exit slips in upper elementary classroom

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