Using Exit Tickets to Spark Recall: Applying a Science of Learning Perspective to Instruction
March 20, 2024

Exit tickets typically consist of one or two questions designed to give teachers a quick gauge of student learning.  And, for this reason, many people tend to think of exit tickets as being solely an assessment tool. However, this is a simplistic way to approach such a valuable tool.

Exit tickets can be a powerful learning activity for students. When the prompt on the exit ticket relates to a concept that was explored earlier in the year, there is a great learning opportunity for students. I’ll share a brief overview of how exit tickets can be used to support learning and then conclude the blog with concrete examples of how to enact this in the classroom.

Science of Learning

There are three stages of learning: 

  • Encoding means getting knowledge into our heads.
  • Consolidation means assigning meaning to that knowledge, which gets it into our memory. It is through this process that connections are established between recently encountered knowledge and knowledge already stored in long-term memory.
  • Retrieval means getting knowledge out of our heads. Retrieval is the process of reaching back and bringing something we previously learned into mind.

Retrieval, the third stage of learning, is often omitted in many classrooms. And, yet, there is substantial evidence that retrieval can be viewed as the most powerful of the three stages.

When prompted to recall a concept, students must search their memory for the concept. In doing so, the student will re-construct their understanding of the concept in terms of previous knowledge and current experience. Students strengthen their understanding of the concept by adding layers of details during each re-visit. In addition to strengthening their understanding of the concept, our brain organizes our memories more efficiently every time they are retrieved. By strengthening pathways to memories and increasing the retrieval cues, the brain naturally makes these memories more accessible. Not only does retrieval strengthen our memory of the concept, but it makes it more accessible for recall.

Therefore, exit tickets are not only an assessment tool, but also a learning tool.

Sparking Recall Through Exit Tickets

Teachers can easily turn an exit ticket into a vehicle for spaced and mixed review. Consider having an exit ticket a few times a week. Throughout the school year, cycle through key concepts so that students have opportunities to re-engage and revisit important mathematical concepts. It is through this revisiting (aka, retrieval), that students will strengthen their understanding of the concept and spark their ability to recall it when necessary.

Exit Ticket Prompts

Free Write – In a Free Write, students brainstorm about a concept without judgment. The idea is to generate as much information as possible related to the concept. 

  • What can you tell me about an array?
  • What can you tell me about increasing patterns?
  • What can you tell me about surface area?
  • What can you tell me about continuous data?
  • What can you tell me about an obtuse angle?

15 Words or Less– Similar to a free write, 15 Words or Less is an opportunity to write about a concept. The only difference is that 15 Words or Less has a limit on the total number of words. By introducing the limit, students need to focus on choosing the most crucial aspects from memory and be concise to avoid exceeding the word count limit.

  • What can you tell me about multiplication in 15 words or less?
  • What can you tell me about a double-bar graph in 15 words or less?
  • What can you tell me about volume in 15 words or less?
  • What can you tell me about theoretical probability in 15 words or less?
  • What can you tell me about equivalent fractions in 15 words or less?

Dual Coding– Dual Coding is the process of combining text information and visual information. Dual coding strengthens learning because words and visuals are processed through separate channels in the brain. 

  • Use both words and visuals to describe the expression 5c – 2
  • Use both words and visuals to describe a translation 3 to the left
  • Use both words and visuals to describe an array
  • Use both words and visuals to describe discrete data
  • Use both words and visuals to describe a vertex

Compare and Contrast– Compare and Contrast requires students to closely examine two concepts and to distinguish their similarities and differences. This process helps the student hone in on foundational aspects of both concepts, thereby adding crucial layers of meaning to students’ memories of the concepts.  Linkages between the two concepts will be generated as students compare and contrast the concepts.

  • Compare and contrast odd and even numbers
  • Compare and contrast increasing and repeating patterns
  • Compare and contrast acute and obtuse angles
  • Compare and contrast quotient and divisor
  • Compare and contrast the perimeter and area

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from Dr. David Costello.

You have successfully subscribed!