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Checking understanding

with main-idea exit cards

An exit card is a helpful closure strategy that takes only 3-5 minutes. I can quickly assess what students learned and what I taught that “got through.”

At the end of a lesson, I ask students to write the main idea of what they learned on an index card. Because the cards are little, they only have room to write just the gist of what they learned or thought was important. Once collected, I can sort the cards.

If one or two students are off target in daily assessment, then I meet them at the door the next day to do some quick re-teaching. But if a majority of my class has trouble, than I redo my lesson plans. I give them more time to process the content or I deliver the information in a new way.

Improving exit cards

Helping students write helpful exit reflections takes modeling and patience. I copy examples of reflection from the cards onto transparencies. We examine why the writing is so clear. The students construct an understanding by looking at the samples. Suggestions include:

  • Name things using the exact word, not a pronoun.
  • Look for generalizations, not specifics, when writing main ideas.
  • Write definitions for new words, not just the word. You won’t remember later.
  • Reread what you wrote. Revise and edit.

I also show samples that need improving and we revise the reflections together using the criteria we listed.

Each time I assign exit cards, I write with one child. The one-on-one time with me improves writing over the course of the year even if I only get to meet with a child once per month. I scribe or they write while I ask questions that guide them to structure their thoughts clearly.

Sharing this next story with you makes me laugh. I was working with 10th-grade students at the time. The asked me why I didn’t give them back their exit cards. They explained that rereading the exit cards at the beginning of class the next day helped them remember and get ready for class. You see, at first I thought the cards were for me. These kids showed me that the cards helped both of us. So now I give the reflection cards back first thing and the students glue the cards in their daybooks.

  • ASSESSMENT: I know who understands and who needs re-teaching of the main idea. I make a list of students who need additional help in explaining their ideas cohesively and logically.

NEXT: Weekly reflection

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Thinking starts here

We must provide class time for children to learn to think in ways that academics value. We need to be there to respond and help immediately.

ASSESSMENT

A resource for people passionate about helping students write well, compiled by Karen Haag

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Copyright 2016 by Karen Haag

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