Using Exit Tickets in Teaching

Do you use “exit tickets” in teaching? More and more, I see the benefits of using them.

gif_exitWhat are exit tickets?

Exit tickets are a question(s) you ask at the end of a lesson. It is the student’s “exit” out of the lesson or concept being taught. They are a great way to close your lesson!

Benefits of using exit tickets include:

  • They are a great tool to help you quickly assess student learning.
  • They help give you a target.
  • They help to reinforce the concept one more time.
  • They give students’ ownership of assessing their learning.

Example: You have just taught a lesson on nouns. The exit ticket may be for your student to give an example of a noun.

There are many ways to format this. You could: have a multiple choice question with one answer being the noun, have the students verbally tell you, do a fill in the blank (like a Mad Lib), have each student answer a question as s/he lines up to go out to recess, etc..

Have fun with them, and give it a try! They are a great way to get instant feedback to assess if your lesson was a success.

Test Taking Strategies for Reading and Writing

gif_Education-031-bwState testing has arrived. Students have worked hard all year, and now it’s time for them to show what they know!

Students will be expected to:

  • Answer multiple choice questions
  • Write short constructed responses to reading
  • Write a paragraph(s) (younger students)
  • Write an extended piece (older students)
  • Edit

The tests vary slightly from state to state, but general test-taking principles apply across the board. Ideally, these skills should be taught all year long. Still, it is always good idea to do a refresher of test taking tips and strategies with your students/children before they test:

  • Read all the answers before you mark one. Often all of the answers have some relationship to the text.  Pick the one that is most related to the text.
  • Look back at the passage to locate answers. Think about where in the passage the answer might be found and read that part.
  • When writing, make sure you write to the prompt and use the language of the prompt in your paragraph or essay.
  • Make a plan to keep the writing organized. Include a beginning, middle, and end.
  • Be sure to include interesting details.
  • Reread your writing prompt to check for capitalization, punctuation, and any errors.

Keep in mind, state testing is only once a year, and offers just a “snap shot” of students’ capabilities.

These test taking strategies and skills are good for all year long. They may seem a little obvious, but I see students make these type of mistakes (e.g. not reading all the choices, etc.) all the time! I hope this helps.

Fun Free Sight Word Memory Game!

Students can play a fun game and work on sight words!

Do you remember playing a card game where you placed the cards face down, and then picked two cards to see if they matched? If the cards didn’t match, you turned the two cards back face down. The goal was to remember where the cards were when face down, and then match two cards to make a pair. Once you made a pair, you got to keep them and take another turn. (I think that is how it was played!)

You can play this game using sight words!

I have included a free download for beginning sight words (print or copy twice). You can also easily make your own using index cards or a computer. Be sure to have the kids read the words when they play, and help students until they recognize the word by sight.

Download here/2 pages: Sight Word Flash Cards

Sight Word Flash Cards-1

Checking Reading Levels

It is testing time! Fall, winter, and spring are great times to check reading progress.

In the fall, we get a baseline (where the student is functioning) for the beginning of the school year.

gif_snowflake001_bwIn winter, we get to see if all that great teaching we are doing is working and the kids are making good progress! If insufficient progress is being made, we need to reevaluate our teaching strategies, look to increase support, and possibly add a supplemental program.

In the spring, we get a snapshot of the year’s growth.

I have had some questions lately about frustration, instructional, and independent reading levels. Here is a guide to understanding the levels:

  • Independent: 95% success (no more than 1 in 20 words difficult)
  • Instructional: 90% success (1 in 10 words difficult)
  • Frustration: <90% success (more than 1 in 10 words difficult)

Teach at the instructional level, but have students pick books from the library at the independent level. (See my post on Lexile numbers for picking the right level.)

Parents, if you do not know your child’s reading level, get this from his/her teacher!

Writing Specific and Measureable Goals

Whether you are writing a goal for:  students to meet school benchmarks in reading, a student on an IEP (Individualized Education Program), a personal goal, or a goal for your child, goals should be specific and measureable.

A goal should include these components:

  • a baseline (current level)
  • how you will measure the goal
  • when the goal is expected to be met
  • a reasonable amount of expected growth/progress (goals need to be attainable!)

Here is a sample goal:

By 12/2014, “Johnny” will write a five sentence paragraph including a topic sentence, three supporting sentences, and a close, with 80% accuracy in 4 out of 5 trials as measured by student writing samples and a rubric.

Baseline: Johnny currently writes one sentence beginning with a capital and ending with an end mark.

Goals can also have objectives that break the goal down even further. For example, you could add as an objective: Johnny will use a graphic organizer to organize his ideas for his paragraph.

Again, it really helps to know where your student/child is at, and where you would like him or her to be. Make sure the goals are reasonable. Most students make a years worth of academic growth in a given year. If a student has a learning disability, adjust the goal to meet his or her learning pace.

Free Thanksgiving Concept Map!

I love the month of November, Thanksgiving, and all the fun activities and crafts you can do surrounding the holiday.

Here is a fun, free concept map I created to help with writing about the meaning of Thanksgiving. Students then use these maps to help write a paragraph about the topic. I recommend reading a story about Thanksgiving and brainstorming as a class first.

Concept maps are an especially good tool for visual learners. I hope this helps!

Download here: Thanksgiving concept map freebie

Thanksgiving concept map freebie-1



The Importance of Pre-teaching Vocabulary

In order to be independent readers, students must understand 98% of what they are reading. When introducing a next text or concept, it is important to pre-teach key vocabulary.

I made up an example to illustrate. Read the sentence below and see how much you understand.

Emma sought a quiet phrontistery in the abaft. She felt a sense of the acatalepsy regarding the situation in which she found herself.


So… How did you do? Were you able to use context to understand the vocabulary? I am guessing context would not be enough, even if these sentences are embedded in a larger paragraph.

We put our students in the same situation. We encourage them to use the pictures and the context (great strategies), but often, they also need to be taught the words.

Here is the translation using a simpler vocabulary:

Emma sought a quiet place to think at the back of the ship. She felt a sense of uncertainty regarding the situation in which she found herself.

I hope this illustration helps to convey the importance of pre-teaching vocabulary!

Theory of Multiple Intelligences, Part I

As an educator, I really appreciate Dr. Howard Gardner’s ideas regarding different types of intelligences. Why? Because it has helped to validate different types of learners, and dispels the idea that only people who are good at ____ (fill in the blank) are smart.

In his book, Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, he identifies different categories of intelligence. They are:

  • Linguistic Intelligence
  • Musical Intelligence
  • Logical-Mathematical Intelligence
  • Spatial Intelligence
  • Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence
  • Interpersonal Intelligence
  • Intrapersonal Intelligence

When a student shines in one area, it is a great idea to validate that. It may not be, “You are really good at math,” rather, “You were just so kind and caring to ___” (Interpersonal Intelligence). I think students know a genuine compliment when they hear it.

More on the intelligences in Part II.

Teaching to Address Different Learning Styles

There are many different types of learners, and when teaching, the more styles you can incorporate, the better.

Four important learning styles are:

  • Auditory (hearing)
  • Visual (seeing)
  • Kinesthetic (moving)
  • Tactile (touching)

The result of teaching to different learning styles? Well…the better the chance you will hit upon all your students’ learning styles, and the students will be more engaged and remember the lesson better.

Note: Some students, classmates, or your child may have sensory processing issues where they are hyper or hyposensitive to certain sensory stimuli. An example of hypersensitivity would be a student having difficulty playing a loud game involving touch–people on the autism spectrum who have hypersensitivity to touch or sound have described it as actually painful. Keep in mind all your students when teaching!

The Importance of Using Academic Language

What is academic language and why use it?

Academic language is the language commonly used in texts, various subjects, lectures, and in testing. It is also often associated with higher order thinking. One of the main reasons to use academic language is so your students/kids can show what they know.

To illustrate, perhaps your child knows how to add and subtract, but when it comes to a test that asks for the “sum” or the “difference,” will they understand the question?

Some examples of academic language are: sum, difference, product, characteristics, attributes, setting, plot, genre, form, infer, predict, synthesize, analyze, critique, interpret, etc. There is also specific academic language for specific subjects.

Get in the habit of using academic language with your students/children. When it comes time for testing, they will thank you!