Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Ticket to Increasing Student Understanding

A Post on Student Achievement Best Practices

 by Andrea Melargni, 6th Grade Language Arts and Science Teacher

In order to improve student achievement, educators need to have a better understanding of the information students are truly comprehending.
Woodworth Middle School, Dearborn, MI
"Ok?" "Got it?" "Any questions?"

Yes, I'll admit it.  I'm guilty of asking these questions at the end of a lesson.  The response?  Blank stares from some, reassuring and confident nods from others.  Alright, so I'm ready to move on to the next lesson, right?  Wrong!  What makes us think that we can accept the answers of a few, as the understanding of all?

In order to improve student achievement, as educators we need to have a better understanding of the information students are truly comprehending.  This is how we can actually see if they "got it", without asking a rhetorical question.  But, how?

We need a simple and effective way to check for understanding on a daily basis providing us opportunities for driving instruction based on student learning.  This is where the exit ticket comes in...  It provides the opportunity of giving each and every student a prompt to explain their comprehension of the day's lesson.

Draw a picture of an event from today's short story.  Write three sentences about magnetic compasses and how they work.  What's one question you still have about today's lesson?  These short and sweet prompts give every student a chance to really share what they understood or didn't quite get.  Quickly handing them in as they slip out the door provides the teacher an opportunity to check-in on student understanding before moving on to new material.  Students can 'park' their exit stickies on the way out on a poster board near the door.  Another idea shared with me by a wonderful colleague is to red-yellow-green light them to indicate their level of understanding (red-confused, yellow-needs more help, green-good grasp).  On the way out, students would indicate their own level of understanding by placing their exit slip in the corresponding colored area of a box.  Of course, it's still important for the teacher to verify their understanding based on the actual written response.

So, students have completed their exit slips.  Now what?  Here comes the most important part...the results.  Based on these individual responses, record what concepts need to be reviewed.  Have those students that really 'got it' work with those that didn't.  Pair up the 'green light' and 'yellow light' students to work on a task while you (the teacher) work one-on-one with the 'red lights'. Let the student understanding drive instruction, and ultimately, increase student achievement.

Andrea Melaragni teaches sixth grade language arts and science at Woodworth Middle School in Dearborn, Michigan. 

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