Warm Ups and Exit Slips

I've been thinking a lot about how I want to start and end class next year. I think my hang up is that I am a very routine person so I want to pick one thing and use it every day. Then I can make a nice little form to pass out and be done with it. No more thinking.

Just like there is no one best teaching method, there is no one best way to start and end class. I'd like to brainstorm some ideas to keep in my 'toolbox' of ideas. (It is a very sexy toolbox by the way.)

In the past I have mostly done review problems from the previous lesson or review problems of skills they should have and will need for the current lesson as my warm up.

I tried exit slips for the first time last year and it failed. Students would do the warm up on one side and then immediately flip it over and attempt the exit slip, even though I hadn't taught them the new skill yet. Or I would run class too long and forget about the exit slip completely.

I also spent entirely too much time creating, printing, and cutting them. It was not worth it. Neither the ends nor the means were justified.

These are my priorities and purposes behind a warm up and exit slips:
1. Warms ups suck students into learning as soon as the bell rings
2. I want to make the most of each one of my instructional minutes.
3. I want a seamless transition from one class to another.
4. Exit slips require me to give students time to reflect.
5. I want students to make meaning and create connections from what they've learned.
6. I want some kind of instructional feedback so I know what to do next.

Here are the things I am brainstorming about and please help me add new ideas.

Warm Up Exercises
Review problem from previous lesson
Review problem of skill they should know and will need for current lesson
Review problem of skill from previous unit
Review problem of skill from previous grade
Vocabulary review
Write a main idea from the previous lesson
Compare/contrast something
Look back at a practice problem you didn't understand and write one question about it

Exit Slip Exercises
Write a one sentence summary of the math we did today.
Create analogies/metaphors.
Choose one example problem from the notes and ask a question about it.
Write a main idea or important fact from today's lesson.
Rewrite a process from the notes in your own words.
Rewrite the definition(s) of important vocabulary word(s) in your own words.
Write down any important formulas and label what the variables mean.

Do I build this into their daily guided notes sheet?
Do I give them blank index cards and project the task on the SMART board?
Are index cards the right size for what I want? (Do I even know what I want?)
Do I keep these for accountability or do students?
Could I manage it so that the exit slip can be reviewed/shared/discussed the next morning as the warm up exercise, killing two birds with one stone?
If I want some type of instructional feedback, I have to be in possession of the exit slips. When I read through them, what do I do with them? Sort? Keep? Toss?
Could a throwaway exit slip be transferred to my unit summary sheet as the warm up exercise for the day and then be discarded?

I think my bottom line question (which applies to most things I want to do) is:
What is the simplest way to do this with the most impact?

One more thing...I have always wanted to make a giant BINGO (or MATHO I suppose) board with different activities and then roll an awesome BINGO wheel thingy to select the activity. Could that be a possibility? Could I create activities generic enough that could apply to either a warm up or exit slip? I could have students take turns spinning the wheel. I think they would love it and it would be random. Could I let go of my control freak nature enough to let it happen without, gasp, me planning it?

Inquiring minds want to know.


  1. I could have written this post, if, of course, I were a better writer. You've nailed exactly what I want to do and what I try to figure out. I'll be back to see if anyone gives you any brilliant ideas, but I liked the brainstorm of ideas you listed. Perhaps I need to be less rigid and mix it up a bit myself. :)

  2. No put downs! Just ideas :)

    We are so rigid, like we have rulers stuck up our cardigans. lol

    I'm excited to see what pans out as well.

  3. At the Minnesota Math Conf. I saw some warm ups that interested me. 2 week cycles of questions, 3 review type questions of past material or skills needed for next concept. Use of vocab in directions, as the cycle gets into week two you take out the key vocab and Ss fill it in. 4th question is a mental math practice question. At end of 2 weeks you can give a quick quiz to see what is happening with the 3 skills you've been focusing on. Email me if you want to see the examples that I've started for my 7th grade classes.
    I enjoy your thoughts. Keep up the good work.

  4. Here are some of my favorite closing activities both from my time in the classroom and from observing other teachers!

    I think the ideas you already have are great too; quick and easy ways to add really solid math thinking to a class period without a ton of time or work :)

  5. Thoughts on the warm up first . . . I'd suggest that the warm up should be something that all kids can do with minimal guidance from the you. There should be (virtually) no (mathematical) barrier to entry. The last thing you want to have to do is to reteach/tutor while you are trying to take role, get kids settled in, etc. Think of it as time to build procedural fluency and automaticity.

    Re: exit slip, one question I learned to avoid was "Write down one thing you learned today." because then students would respond by copying down the day's objectives. Perhaps that has some value but I felt like I wanted (them) to get more out of it than that. I often would try to ask a formative question or something similar to your "write a main idea . . .", possibly paired with some sort of procedural question to see if they could e.g. solve a two-step equation or whatever procedure they'd learned that day, if any.

    As far as logistics, I used blank half sheets of paper (minimal prep required) that were stacked on the table by the door. One side was for the warm up, one side for the exit slip. Warm up and exit slip problems went up on the screen at the appropriate time, which solves your problem of kids starting the exit slip before the lesson has begun. Also, I suspect that if you established the exit slip as a routine in the first week of school, your students could (would) help hold you accountable. A little bit of practice is all it took for me to start wrapping up my lessons a few minutes earlier.

  6. Last year, I was gung-ho about two-sided warm-ups and exit tickets. The exit ticket included 2-3 questions based on that day's content and 3 questions: What did I learn? What did I do well? What questions do I still have? The do now contained problems from the previous day's class as well. For the first few months of school, I was so diligent about collecting these at the end of each class, grading them, recording them, and putting them in each kid's mailbox. The kids liked the immediate feedback, and I feel super accomplished.

    ...Until....a particularly difficult parent got my principal involved in the fact that I...***Graded Exit Tickets*** THE HORROR! So I trashed this whole process that I had perfected, and started a new system of giving "daily assessment packets" for each group of content on a quiz. These were more tedious to grade and keep track of, but during class I would walk around with my pretty pens and check off questions that they got correct immediately, which helped with grading. Having all of the daily assessment in one packet tempted kids to go ahead and do work before we got there, which in theory was fine...but my control freakishness couldn't handle the extra grading that required and the fact that the kids mainly did this so they could use the time in class on do nows and exit tickets to read or start their homework....

    Nonetheless, exit tickets are really essential, and I have found that this year they just aren't happening in my class. I plan them every day, but we changed school times and length of periods (SHORTER, despite the 15 minutes added on to each day) and I just can't get the new timing down in order to accomplish an exit ticket every day.

    I REALLY like your idea of using the exit ticket as a do now discussion - give them the exit ticket feedback and during the first few minutes of class, let them read the feedback, retry the problems, and ask peers for help....

    Lots of great thinking going on! I'd love to read a post on how you're dealing with this now!

  7. I firmly believe that your "warm up" should begin to "hook" students into the lesson and drive you toward your daily outcome. The "exit slip" should be used formatively to let you know next steps.

    1. That's one way to think about it. Doing that would mean creating new warm ups each day for each prep. I don't have the time for that with four preps so I like creating something I can use over and over for every class.