Sunday, August 7, 2016

Thinking about Closure

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Closure via Exit Tickets

Due to multiple reasons, my summer plans were changed and I was not able to attend TMC16.  However, Glenn and Julie did a great job of making sure that videos were taken of the keynote speakers and the My Favorites.  One of the keynote speakers was Tracy Zager and her talk impacted me in several ways, but my #1TMCThing is based on her talk:  "Never Skip the Close"

I'm guilty.  I often skip the close because time runs short or there's one more thing I need to say.  This year, I need to be more intentional about watching my time and developing structures to provide time for students to reflect on the lesson.  Heck, I need to provide time for ME to reflect on the lesson!!

The most common form of lesson closure is the Exit Ticket.  If you do a search on Pinterest, you'll see tons of ideas about Exit Tickets, but, when reading through the #MTBoSBlaugust posts, this post from Mark Chubb (@MarkChubb3) caught my eye and questions starting running around in my head.... What kinds of exit questions do tend to ask?  Do I ask them with intentionality?  What do I do with the information once I've asked the question?  Do I use the answers to inform my teaching?

Don't get me wrong... I have stacks and stacks of quarter sized exit tickets such as the ones below:

But, even with the greatest intentions, even with exit slips already made out, I still skip the close. :(

This year, I want to be more intentional.  Pam talked about setting an alarm on her FitBit.  I love this idea!  I have one set, but I haven't tried it out yet when I've been busy, so I'm eager to see how it works once school is in session.

I've played around with different formats for exit tickets:

Maybe a weekly paper that students keep in their table folder....

I don't have the form quite right (yet).  I like the idea of one paper per week, but on a typical week, I only see my students 4 days.  I could do a half sheet with 4 sections and have Friday be a day to ask them some reflection over the week or to ask them a non-school related question.  But then we have 1 week a month where we see our students all 5 days or weird schedules where days get flipped around.  I think there is value in writing down your thinking and this would allow me to be more flexible with the question I ask each day.

I've also contemplated using an electronic method such as Google Forms...

There are advantages to electronic - less paper waste being a huge factor.  Also, with the new Google Forms, the "responses" tab will let me see the answers as they filter in, so I can immediately make adjustments for the next class period.  However, there are disadvantages too.  The time factor is probably the biggest disadvantage for me.  It takes time to get out the Chromebooks and go to a link.  I also haven't figured out how to easily sort the responses by hour other than creating new forms per period per day (WOW, that's a lot of forms to keep track of), or downloading and sorting the spreadsheet, which takes away from the awesomeness of the responses tab.  I like the permanence of paper, where I can respond to the students overnight and they can read my feedback the next day.  I know I could make the form into a Google Quiz and type my feedback to each student, but that seems like a lot more time invested than I would have with handwritten feedback.  The biggest disadvantage is the lack of flexibility that blank paper provides.  Google Forms is great for reflective feedback, but for a math class, sometimes you need to do (and show) the math.

As I mentioned above, my #1TMCThing is to "Never Skip the Close".  Thankfully I still have a week to figure it out, but so many questions to figure out... How do I organize it?  How do I make closure intentional yet easy to implement?  How do I commit closure to "muscle memory" so that it is just a natural part of my classroom?  Are exit tickets the most common because they are the most effective/flexible?  Are there other effective methods of closure?  What are they?


Tracy Zager said...

So fun to see you take up this charge as your #1TMCthing! I'm going to respond with just a few questions that I hope might help.

1. Are you planning a close that's useful to your students or useful to you? Or both? I think exit tickets are great but they need to be productive. Are you getting useful formative assessment information out of them? Are your students truly reflecting and growing mathematically? What happens with the information you gather? How do you incorporate it into your planning? How does writing it influence their learning?

2. What about mixing up written closes with discussion closes? Could you ask a question or launch a discussion at the end that would give students a chance to connect ideas or synthesize concepts or think relationally?

3. If you want to stick with writing, could you play with formats so students hear what others think? Silent chalk talks are really nice for this? They can read each other's work and respond in writing.

4. What about varying the questions? What about asking What does what we did today have to do with ___________? I'm always looking for ways for students to step back and take a little perspective. Fit new information in their schema in relation to their other knowledge. Get out of the weeds a bit.

I hope you'll keep me posted! Also, some teachers have self-organized a focus group on closes using #lessonclose as the hashtag. Here's the google folder: It's just getting started. I hope you'll join in!


Anna Blinstein said...

Tracy's suggestions are awesome. One other idea I had (which I haven't actually tried yet) is to use Activity Builder for reflection questions since the feature that allows students to see others' comments is built-in and each period or day can use the same Activity Builder with just a different class code.

Anonymous said...

But, even with the greatest intentions, even with exit slips already made out, I still skip the close. :(

I'm just like you in that regard - I have a stack of half-page exit tickets that I always intended on using, but never got around to last year. I ended up putting them in the scrap paper pile.

However, when I have been organized enough to follow through with them, I printed a couple of practice items from the topic we worked on that day. My hope was that students could complete them quickly enough and I wouldn't spend forever reading them. I also had thumbs-up and thumbs-down icons for students to circle at the bottom to let me know how they felt. Your post has me thinking about incorporating some space for summarizing or questions.

Unknown said...

Your post prompted me to write about my own upcoming journey with closure and exit slips. It's always been a struggle for me, too, in the exact ways that you mentioned. Thanks for the push!

Jeremy Touzel Hansuvadha said...

Like Pamela, your post inspired me ( Thanks for helping me to think about this aspect of my teaching.