Beyond Exit Tickets: 11 Fresh Formative Assessment Strategies

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Teachers who are eager to assess the development of critical content knowledge or skills during the learning experience often rely on exit tickets for quick perspective. This affords teachers the opportunity to see what learning is happening and even to what degree at a moment when they’re able to respond most effectively.

Exit tickets are powerful formative assessment tools. When every student is required to complete one by nearly every teacher they have in a given day, the practice grows a bit stale, though. Ready to mix things up a bit? Consider these approaches.

Beyond the Exit Ticket: 11 Fresh Formative Assessment Strategies

1. Ask students to assume the identity of the character, historical figure, concept, or process you are studying. This might require them to practice a bit of personification in the process, and that’s okay: doing so adds complexity to the experience. Once they’re grounded in their new identity, prompt them to write a first person narrative or a six word memoir, using evidence from their learning.

2. Create a prompt, create a relevant hashtag, and challenge learners to Tweet their responses. Doing so will make their thinking and learning transparent to all, and it will also invite participation from a global audience. Consider when it makes the most sense to formatively assess this way. Sometimes, it’s important to firewall students’ thinking and works in progress. Sometimes, making them transparent enriches the experience.

3. Use sticky notes. Ask each student to review the notes gathered during learning and to identify three places where new learners might struggle to understand what’s most important. They should write their reasons why on the sticky note. Use this to inform your instruction.

4. Snap a few pictures. Invite learners to use their cell phones to take photos of the most important/easiest/hardest portion of the learning. Post to your class Instagram or Flickr account, tag appropriately, and ask learners to “like” the posts that resonate with them most.

5. Ask learners to partner up and discuss how the day’s learning might apply in a different context or content area. Require one person to record the gist of the conversation, and collect this work for review.

6. Require learners to render the texts that were central to the learning. First, they should highlight the passage that was most critical to the learning. Next, they should underline the sentence within the passage that was most critical to the learning. Finally, they should circle the word within the sentence that was most critical to the learning. Invite them to share their reasoning as well.

7. Define the skill you are eager to help learners perform independently. Challenge them to practice it, and study them carefully. Document which students can perform the skill independently using a check mark. Use a plus sign to distinguish students who are able to perform the skill with your support. Use a question mark to distinguish those students who are unable to perform the skill, even with your support. These are the students to study carefully and to talk with closely. Find out why they aren’t progressing. Use this information to inform instruction.

8. Create a digital survey. This enables learners to share their comfort level, struggles, and needs with you.

10. Use an instant feedback tool, like Socrative. It has both mobile and web platforms and allows teachers to create multiple choice and short response questions. As long as you don’t grade the results, students love Socrative.

11. Let students choose the feedback focal points. Coach them to identify which aspects of their learning need feedback. Then, attend to their needs.

The biggest concern I have about formative assessment is that some strategies are summative assessments, in disguise. You might notice that the 11 strategies outlined in this post allow learning to continue even as teachers are assessing progress, strengths, and needs.

If you’re new to formative assessment or just beginning to understand where it lives within a larger assessment system, you may struggle to define it as a verb rather than a noun.

The fact is that you never have to test or quiz in order to formatively assess progress, and grades should never be assigned. Does this surprise you? You may enjoy these ten other tidbits about formative assessment as well.

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A former English teacher, Angela Stockman is the founder of the WNY Young Writer's Studio, a community of writers and teachers of writing in Buffalo, New York. She is also an education consultant with expertise in curriculum design, instructional coaching, and assessment. Read more from Angela at

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