What You Need to Know about Taking Tickets in Class

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“…Tickets, please.” Exit tickets are a valuable formative assessment.

“May I have your ticket, please?”  When I hear this question I envision a train full of passengers with a conductor, in a blue suit and flat topped hat, walking down the aisle and asking those passengers to show him their tickets to ride.   He checks them thoroughly and determines if the rider is going to continue on their journey or get off at the next stop.  If they have the proper information on the ticket, he will punch a hole in it with a personal, handheld punch and move on to the next passenger.  If they do not have the right ticket or any ticket at all, then he may offer to let them purchase a ticket right there or he might take their name and address and send them a bill.  Or he could opt to have the improper passenger ejected from the train altogether.

Train conductors do a very important job keeping passengers safe, operating doors, answering questions, and helping passengers with various needs.  He/she is also responsible for making sure the train stays on schedule, keeping a log, and many mechanical duties.  Much like these conductors, teachers are expected to keep their students safe, answer questions, and help their students in various ways.  Not to mention that teachers do their best to stay on schedule, keep track of data, and have numerous other duties.

One particular element of the conductor’s job that a teacher can use is to check their students’ tickets.  Now I’m not talking train tickets, I’m referring to Exit Tickets.

Exit tickets are a type of formative assessment that shows you what students are thinking or understanding, and what they have learned at the end of a lesson.  Before they move on to recess, lunch, the end of the day, to change classes, or etc., they need to provide the teacher with a completed “ticket”.  The ticket should have the answer to a question, a solution to a problem, or a reflection response to what they have learned.  Exit Tickets help teachers quickly assess who is ready to go on for more of a journey or who needs some reminders and assistance.  They are also very useful for planning your next steps of instruction.

An exit ticket is simply a question that is posed to all students prior to class or a lesson ending. Students write their answer on a card or piece of paper and hand it in as they exit or transition to the next content.  It is a formative assessment technique that engages all students and provides the all-important evidence of student learning for the teacher.

To create your exit tickets, decide on what you’d like to find out about the students’ learning at the end of a lesson.  Write a question or pose a problem on the exit ticket.  Or you might write the question/problem on the board for all the students to see.  Keep it short.

Next, set a specific amount of time for the students to complete the exit ticket.  While they are finishing, you become the Conductor and can stand at the door to collect them as they leave, direct the students to deposit them into a collection spot before they transition, or walk around and collect them yourself.  A variation to this might be to stand at the door and instruct your students to share an idea or concept that they have learned from the lesson.  Each student must answer with a different answer. Allow them time to discuss different possible answers before they reach you at the door.

Following the collection of

Gathering tickets is a valuable responsibility for the conductor.

the tickets, take time to examine them carefully, just as the conductor might evaluate a ticket to ride.  Depending on the reason that you have used this strategy, you might want to sort the tickets into categories.  For instance, you might have a category for “Mastered”, “Approaching”, and “Needs Interventions”.  Whatever your category topics, it’s important to determine which students grasped the concept, which show that they don’t understand, and which might need you answer  to questions and to clear up some small misconception.  Some teachers will then group the students for the next day’s lesson based on their exit ticket answers.  The groups would include one of the students that showed a good understanding of the answer or solution to the problem.  This will provide students with an opportunity to help each other and to hear different perspectives about the solution.  It can lead students toward increased growth and success.

You might also consider starting your next lesson by going over some of the interesting tickets, from the previous lesson, with the students.  You might allow them to explain their thinking and ask further questions.  Don’t be afraid to bring out tickets that show a misconception, especially if it is a common one.  Talking about it with the students can help to clear up the confusion and move them toward the next objective within the topic.

* Be careful not to use this to shame or humiliate any student.  I strongly encourage you to use what you know about your students and only select and discuss misconceptions from students that you know will be able to handle the feedback and tips.

Exit tickets can be used for so many learning opportunities.  Here are some suggestions:

  • To check for understanding of key points within a lesson.
  • To provide students a chance to ask a question about the topic or lesson.
  • To see if students can apply the information in a different way.
  • To help you make groups for the next day’s lessons.
  • To engage students in their learning right up to the end of the lesson.
  • To provide lesson extensions for those students who have demonstrated mastery of the subject.
  • To engage students in reflecting on the information that was presented in the lesson.

Whatever reason you might chose to use exit tickets, they will mean nothing if you do not take time to review them soon after the lesson.  In that case, they simply become busy work.  A formative assessment, such as this, is meant to form your next steps in instruction.  They are there to give you quick feedback to your work.  You’ll be able to catch those that seem to be falling through the cracks, to provide enrichment for those that master the topic quickly, and to catch misconceptions before they become ingrained in the students’ minds and cause bigger problems down the line.  The valuable information that you glean cannot be ignored.

When a conductor views the train tickets, he/she also gathers valuable information about the passengers and to ignore this responsibility would be a great problem for the train company.  He’s not only gathering that paid, but what time they rode, how far they went, and how often they ride.  This data is important to the company and is used to improve their service and to let them know were changes need to occur within the schedule and routes.  When you use exit tickets, the data you glean tells you how far the students’ understanding went, how often they are confused or certain, and when they are most successful.   This data is important to guide your work and to let you know when changes need to occur in your teaching and when lessons need to take a different route.   So join the abundance of “Teacher – Conductors” and request tickets from your students too.  It’s a journey that leads to the station of Greater Success.


If you’d like more teaching strategies in an easy to use collection, please check out my Teaching Strategies Toolkit to Engage Learners. Click the image below.

A Teacher’s Toolkit of Teaching strategies.