Professional Learning

Developing a Student Exit Slips Strategy for Formative Assessment

4 Min Read
Wf926908 Exit Slips Hero Image2

Class is almost done. Now you need to know which students grasped (and didn’t grasp) the lesson. And you need to know it quickly.

Formative assessment is a type of instructional assessment that allows teachers to collect real-time data to inform next steps. It’s low stakes (no grades), timely (happens in the middle of learning), and helps to improve the teaching and learning process.

Using Exit Slips in the Classroom

What is an exit slip in education? Typically a small piece of paper where students respond to a teacher’s questions or reflect upon their learning, the exit slip is one of the most popular formative assessment tools for closing out a class session.

However, not all exit slips in the classroom are created equal. An exit slip that truly works for the teacher will not only engage your students at the end of class but also give you the data you need to make the call on individualized instruction choices. To be sure you’re implementing an exit slips strategy that provides actionable insights, keep these pointers in mind.

Keep it fair: How can you be sure of this? Create your exit slip FIRST! Yes, build the student exit slips BEFORE you plan how you’ll execute your lesson. This way, you can align your exit slip assessment with your learning objective and plan how and when to tackle the trouble spots that the exit slip addresses. Doing so can help you avoid taking the entire class back to the drawing board.

Know what you don’t know: What information do you need to inform your next instructional choice? Maybe you already know which students still require extra practice on identifying a main idea from your observations in class. That’s not a good candidate for an exit slip. Align with a concept that you need to collect more data on—an idea, concept, or skill that you’ll be circling back to during the next learning opportunity.

Keep it simple: The most effective exit slips for information gathering are often the ones that are the least complex for the students to complete (and for you to review) while still giving you detailed information about what was understood in class. They can be self-reflective or application based. Regardless, one well-constructed multiple-choice question can often fit the bill. There’s no need to make copies of these types of exit slips either. Students can simply write their names and answers on a square of paper and turn them in on their way out of class.

Exit Slips Strategy
Exit Slips Formative Assessment 2

Keep it clear: Be sure that your question is easily understood. It sounds simple, but sometimes even with the best intentions, exit slip questions are too rigorous. Make sure the question you create truly focuses only on the concept for which you need more information. A Depth of Knowledge tool can help support you in defining and assessing the learning objective clearly and at the right rigor for your class.

Exit Slips Formative Assessment 3
Exit Slips Formative Assessment 4

Keep it meaningful: You might be creating only a one-question exit slip, but you still want to be able to gather meaningful insights. One way to do this is by formulating your incorrect answer choices to help you understand exactly where students are getting tripped up in their understanding. Check out the answer choices below that correspond with the question above and see how they can help you make your next instructional decision:

Exit Slips Formative Assessment 5

Keep your action steps at the ready: Exit slips can be excellent diagnostic tools, and when created purposefully and first in your plans, they can truly act as a driver in the execution of your lesson. But don’t forget to use the data you collect to reflect on your teaching and support your students. Be prepared to address individual misconceptions in small groups while providing students who are ready to advance the opportunity to put the concept into practice in an authentic way.

If your plan is for students to receive reteaching via technology at home, have students sort their slips on the way out of class and direct them to choose the homework that corresponds with their answer choice. At this point, you can provide students with links to videos or other resources that address individual misconceptions, so each student can come to the next session motivated to ask questions and move ahead with their learning!


Learn more about how HMH’s Into Learning programs help teachers collect actionable data on student learning through embedded assessments with data insight and reporting, allowing teachers to meet the needs of all students in their diverse classrooms.

Related Reading

Differentiation vs scaffolding hero

Dana Leon
Shaped Contributor

Three educators talking hero WF1807234

Peter McLaren
Executive Director of Next Gen Education

Three educators talking hero WF1807234

Peter McLaren
Executive Director of Next Gen Education