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Pedagogy Matters! #1: Do Nows and Exit Tickets – The Essential Bookends to a Lesson

In our blog series about pedagogy, we’ve challenged teachers to put their lesson plans to the test! We recommended a six-point “checklist” of strategies that every lesson plan should include to ensure the stage is set for rigor and learning for every student. At CT3, we’ve identified twenty research-based pedagogical strategies that are a necessary part of a teacher’s comprehensive lesson- building toolkit. We are excited to share many of these strategies with you as we continue with this blog series to assist you in enhancing learning in your classroom!

In this post, we share with you the main concepts of effective Do Nows and Exit Tickets. We consider this strategy the essential “bookends” to every comprehensive lesson and one that should be completed daily. Once you understand the power of this strategy, you’ll wonder how you taught without it!

Do Nows, given to students immediately upon the start of a class, are daily formative assessments that are in electronic or paper format. These assessments typically feature two to five questions that take students anywhere from three to ten minutes to answer. This is different than the traditional “bell work” which is a basic assignment given as a management routine at the start of a class. Do Nows are assessments, strategically created to give teachers two immediate sources of data:

  • First, by asking (a) question(s) taken from material students learned in a previous lesson, teachers can ascertain what was retained. This first question allows the teacher to know if students have a mastery of the foundational concept(s) required for the lesson about to be taught. If the majority of the students get this question(s) wrong, the teacher can then re-teach it to the entire class, or provide a refresher for a small group of students. If the majority of students have mastery necessary to move on, the teacher can proceed with the planned lesson for the day. Mastery of certain skills or concepts is often imperative, especially if the previous lesson objectives are the foundation for the day’s lesson.
  • Second, by asking a “new” question(s) that addresses the learning target for that day’s lesson, a teacher can determine what the class already knows and assess background knowledge about the topic. If a student already has a strong grasp of the learning target, that can signal to a teacher that the student’s learning may need to be extended or it can be data for working groups later in the lesson.
  • Note: The strength of the questions in Do Nows (and Exit Tickets) are essential. While one of your questions might be low level, the rest of your questions should be higher level questions. Refer to the Depth of Knowledge Wheel or Bloom’s Taxonomy to test your Do Now (and Exit Ticket) questions.

To gain in-the-moment data from Do Nows, the teacher must scan and document continuously while students are completing formative assessments. At CT3, we coach teachers to do this effectively by keeping a checklist on a clipboard where they quickly document students’ accuracy on  “review question(s)” and “new question(s)”. When executed well, the teacher is able to quickly gauge the understanding of the class before charging ahead with the lesson.

Click here to watch a short video of a teacher collecting data during the Do Now.

When introducing this strategy to teachers, we find they are often alarmed if a preliminary check shows 50% of their students unable to correctly answer the review question(s). But remember, you cannot solve a problem if they don’t know it exists, and with this data, you can make the necessary adjustments to your lesson. Do Nows are a formative assessment that can help you differentiate your lesson to meet the needs of all of your students!

At the end of a lesson, teachers then introduce the second “bookend” – the Exit Ticket –  to ensure that students learned the objective (learning target) for the day. The Exit Ticket is a restatement of the “new” question(s) from the Do Now. Teachers can compare answers from the Do Now and Exit Ticket to determine which students mastered the learning target and how successful their lesson was in reaching all of their students. With this data, teachers can then make adjustments to future lessons and organize working groups of students to stretch, extend or re-teach the objective.

Helpful questions to ask yourself while comparing Do Now and Exit Ticket data:

  • How many students got the new question(s) wrong at the start of class but got it right at the end?
  • Which students need me to extend their learning?
  • Are there students that need to be pulled for reteaching? Should I start pre-teaching certain objectives or learning targets to select students?
  • What question(s) do I need to include on tomorrow’s Do Now?
  • Were there students who were able to answer the exit ticket correctly but answered incorrectly as the “review” question in the Do Now the next day?

Do Nows and Exit Tickets are effective when teachers establish routines in their classroom that intentionally give them in-the-moment data. Then, teachers are better equipped to teach to mastery, differentiating for students and making every moment purposeful.

A note to school leaders: You have a unique opportunity to empower your teachers to execute this type of strategy through professional development as well as norming expectations for rigorous work products in your building. Principals and coaches can support the implementation of Do Nows and Exit Tickets by holding frequent and consistent walkthroughs to note firsthand student understanding of objectives and standards. As patterns emerge in this informal data collection, meet with teachers to build a collective understanding of what needs to be adjusted at the curricular level to deepen learning and further engage students.

When well-executed, Do Nows and Exit Tickets enable educators to create highly rigorous environments that allow for differentiated lessons and meet the needs of all students!

By Kristyn Klei Borrero, CT3’s CEO and Co-Founder

Click below for related posts:

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2 Comments
  • Do your lesson plans pass the test? - CT3
    Posted at 18:04h, 13 April Reply

    […] here to read the first part in this series, A Note to Educators: Pedagogy Surpasses Curriculum, and here to read the next blog in this series, around Do Nows and Exit […]

  • Ayla Duve
    Posted at 13:45h, 10 August Reply

    Could you provide your resources that you used to suggest that “Do Nows/Starters and/or Exit Tickets” are an effective strategy for the classroom specifically for Middle School age group? I have been using this technique for many years now and I have not been have to show this as an effective use of class time aside from getting students to do something right when they enter the classroom.

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