Mrs. King at Home About Mrs. King Contact Mrs. King Mrs. King's Music Class HOME Image Map

Introduction to Exit Tickets

Exit tickets are quickly becoming my favorite way to assess what students have learned in class.  In the districts I have taught I see my elementary students once a week for 50 minutes.  Once a week.  *sigh*  That just isn’t enough time!  The students spend more time in the bathroom each week than they do in music class.  With increasing pressure to collect data and no increase in time, exit tickets have been a life saver.

 What are exit tickets?

Exit tickets, exit slips, exit interviews or whatever you want to call them are short snapshots of student learning.  This kind of formative assessment process provides information needed to adjust teaching and learning while they are still happening.  They can be submitted on regular paper, orally, on index cards or on specifically made templates. 

Exit tickets completed by 3rd graders toward the end of our instruments of the orchestra unit.  From when I said "go" to when the walked out the door, this took 7 minutes for 22 kids to complete.  This includes time to get supplies and put them up.

 Well, yeah but what is so great about exit tickets?

They let teachers know what students have understood and retained.
Have you ever had a class leave and thought “Wow.  They didn’t get that at all!”  I have.  I’ve spent the evening fretting about what I would do next time and how I would present it differently, how we could practice it so that it made sense and wondering if they would even remember any of it.  Sometimes my assessment was right on.  They needed a bit of remediation as a group and another class period to go over the material.  Other times I’ve been flabbergasted at what they remembered.  They really DID get it, but just didn’t give me any evidence.   With exit tickets, I can ask a simple question like “What is harmony?” or “Tell me three facts about Beethoven.” Their response takes only minutes and I know what they have retained.

 They help students reflect on what they have learned.
Unlike regular classroom teachers, music teachers see their kids one time a week or one time a day (for JH and HS).  My students may not have time to reflect on what we have covered.  We are lining up and heading out the door quickly.  I don’t assign homework in music so I can’t really give them a follow up assignment or activity to complete.  I wait a week and then review.  With exit tickets, students can reflect on what they just learned while it is fresh in their mind.  I think this helps them remember and retain what we have talked about.

They help us and students identify strengths and weaknesses. 
Often our assessments are through observation and the thought of grading a ton of worksheets makes us what to shove a pencil in our skull.    With exit tickets I can quickly see who has an understanding of the material.  Students will be able to identify material that they understand or need more help with.  One of my favorite things to do with exit tickets is to ask students to complete their ticket and then place them in three different piles:  “Got it!”  “Sorta.” and  “I need more practice!”

 I’ve seen clever pins where teachers have created different ways to organize this with folders, mailboxes, bins and trays.  I haven’t invested in this yet, but love the idea!

They teach students to think critically.
Students get to analyze what they’ve learned.  Depending on the prompt for your exit ticket, they may also get to apply it to a new situation.  I love to give students ownership of their learning.  Once I have created the expectation of completing an exit ticket at the end of class, some students think about that during instruction time.   One student even said “I don’t think I understand.  I’m gonna write that on my exit ticket so I remember to ask you about it later.”  Be still my music teacher heart!

Exit tickets allow you to collect data over a period of time in a time-saving way.
Time is precious.  Every minute counts.  Exit tickets only take a few minutes of your class time but provide data that you can use to gauge understanding, screen for band and choir, use as recorded grades for report cards, refer to when referring students for special services and even to create a little portfolio of student work for parent teacher conferences.

Exit tickets completed by third graders during our instruments of the orchestra unit.  These tickets were used after our first class period of learning about the string family.

Okay!  I am ready to get started!

I use to use exit tickets on scraps of paper.  You know those copies you have left over when only 23 kids come instead of 27 and there’s no time to have them make it up?  I took all of those extra copies and cut them into fourths and put them in a basket.  We used those scrap pieces to write our exit ticket question, problem or comment on.

 Then I got a wild and crazy idea one snow day and I made prettier ones.  Still simple in design and concept, but just using a more profession form for the exit ticket improved the responses I received from students. 

Seriously.  Taking the same questions and putting them inside a little ticket graphic IMPROVED the responses I received from students.   They began writing in complete sentences.  They wrote more in each response.   They even ASKED to do tickets if I forgot or if we ran out of time.  Epic teacher win.

Tips for Making Exit Tickets Work

1.        Persistence
You’ve got to do them more than once.  Your students need to learn the procedure.  Exit tickets are not a “sit there and think and then leisurely write down your answer” kind of activity.  Plan a little extra time before doing your first set and describe your expectations.  Describe the procedure for getting supplies, putting them up and getting in line.  Let them know what success will look like.

2.        Have a Plan
I do many writing activities with students so they know the procedure for getting paper, pencils and clipboards and getting to work.  I place supplies in places that help traffic flow smoothly.  Don’t put everything they will need on one table.  Put the pencils and papers in one spot (away from the pencil sharpener if you can) and the clipboards 8-10 feet away.   Practice getting supplies in less than a minute.  Put a timer up and let students know that you don’t want running and pushing, but that you do expect them to be ready to work by the time the timer has sounded.

 Will students create a pile of their exit tickets and then line up?  Will they hold them as they stand in line and hand them to you on their way out?  (This way is great for checking for names!)  Decide what will work best for you and stick to it.

3.        Keep it Simple
This snapshot of student progress should take 2-4 minutes to complete.  Use one or two questions.  Write the questions on the board or on the papers they will get.  I have created exit tickets for many concepts so I just use what I already have on hand. 

4.        To Grade or Not to Grade
I do not need a recorded assessment for every class period.  I have talked to teachers that are required to have an assessment for every class period and can’t count observation as a means of assessment.  In this case I would use exit tickets as a recordable activity every time I used them.

Often, I just look through the exit ticket responses, make a few notes and toss them.  I have told my students not to expect their return.  If I grade them, I’ll return them.  This saves on time and paperwork.

Are you required to keep student portfolios?  These tiny assignments are perfect for that!

5.        Don’t Reinvent the Wheel
I’ve created several sets of exit tickets and they are a best seller in my store.  Not all of the sets are bundled, but many of them are and occasionally I’ll add to the bundle and bump the price up a dollar or two.  Here are some of the sets I have in my store:

Although I'm not teaching choir right now as a class during the day, when I did I often struggled with finding a way to assess students regularly without stealing rehearsal time.  These Choir/Singing exit tickets are perfect.  Questions about posture, technique and performances are included.

This instrument set is what I use with my 3rd graders every year during our instruments of the orchestra unit.  The samples above are from this set.

Many of my students study the "Star-Spangled Banner" each year.  These tickets work with a variety of grade levels.  

Recorders seem to take every minute of class time and every ounce of my strength to teach.  I belt test as part of Recorder Karate, but not every week. With Recorder Exit Tickets I'm able to assess students without a lengthy round of belt testing every time.

The Exit Tickets BUNDLE includes Treble and Bass Clef, Notes and Rests, Instruments, Tempo, Dynamics and Musical Opposites, Peter and the Wolf and a set of general exit tickets that you could use for a variety of topics.  This is a growing bundle.  Occasionally I will add another set to this bundle and bump up the price a little.  This set is great for getting started because it will let you try exit tickets out in a variety of lessons.

Whew!  That's a lot of information about exit tickets!  I hope that this empowers you to give exit tickets a try in your classroom.

post signature


  1. What a great overview! I've used exit tickets occasionally, but this really gives me some reasons to use them more often. I'm most hesitant about getting out supplies and the time that can take, but I appreciated your thoughts on that too. Can't wait to try some more exit tickets!

  2. Thanks for putting these together! How about a set specific to orchestra? e.g., fingerings on a fingerboard, the open string notes on the staff; up/down bow symbols... That would appeal to many an elementary instrumental music teacher like myself.

  3. I love this. I am a recent college grad and I am in a long-term subbing position and I am using exit tickets with my 8th grade class and they are doing amazing things with them. I can honestly say I have learned things from my students by doing exit tickets. What a wonderful thing. I am going to be purchasing these very soon!! Thank you so much for all of your hard work.