Exit tickets are something that I used last year for about 3 months until all classes began to work on their research projects.Why did I stop using them? Because I thought I wasn’t getting any meaningful feedback from the students. My exit ticket asked students to reflect on something that they had learned in class that day. Inevitably with my younger classes, many of the responses said, “We read a book,” even when I hadn’t read a book. I was so frustrated by these responses, that I stopped doing the exit tickets.
But after reviewing all the reading materials, I realized that I stopped using a powerful tool to show my students’ learning. Although there were a few students in every class writing the same thing every week, more than half of the students were writing down something they did learn in class. I have to ask myself now why didn’t I see this positive side and only the negative?
This goes back to my organization and time management with classes. One of the marks that I consistently have difficulty with on my performance reviews is closure meaning I do not provide meaningful closure to a lesson. I struggle with this for several reasons:
- Although most of my classes are scheduled for 40 minutes, in reality most of my students only receive at most 30 minutes of instruction. Quite often I plan too much into a lesson and we don’t finish at a good closing point so I skip the closure.
- Many of my lessons are done over more than one class so finding a place to provide closure can be difficult or seem disconnected.
- My library clerk used to complain about the wasted paper and thought it was stupid. Yeah, I know — that isn’t part of her job but this is a frequent subject of discourse between us.
But in reality, these are just excuses. As a school librarian who was not a teacher first, this is an area of teaching that wasn’t really taught in graduate school. Even after years of observations, no one has sat down and explained to me why this step is critical. But intellectually I understand that closure is a way for students to grasp that the teaching part of the lesson is over and the time for independent practice has now begun. Closure is also a good way to quickly summarize the lesson and reinforce with students what they were learning in class that day.
I will begin using exit tickets but this time I think I will provide students with some options to choose from like some of the ones suggested by Joyce Valenza in “Evolving with Evidence: Leveraging New Tools for EBP“:
- What is one thing you still don’t understand?
- What would you like to learn more about?
- What did you accomplish today?
I especially like the question asking students what they accomplished that day because it makes them reflect back on not only their learning but also their own behavior which may have impacted how much (or little) they accomplished that class period. I also think this will negate some student’s inclination to say the same thing every week.
As a graduate student, I was required to create a online portfolio and I chose to use Google Sites. Since I graduated there are so many other, better choices but I never considered the need for me to have one, especially since I already have a job. But just because I have a job today, doesn’t mean that I will have a job next year or the year after that. Having a portfolio completed and up-to-date just in case seems like a pretty good idea right about now. If I was a consistent blogger, that would be the perfect avenue for me to showcase my work and my thoughts. Maybe someday.
I have often thought it would be nice for high school seniors to have a portfolio of work from their entire school experience that they could look back and see how much they have truly learned. Actually, I think this would be powerful for all students to look at their work from the beginning of the year to their work six months later. I think all of them would be astonished to see how much they really have learned in such a short period of time.
One of the best/easiest tools I have found for student portfolios is Seesaw. It is very easy for students to join and it is available on multiple formats including iPads, Google Apps, and Android. Once students have an account, they are able to take pictures of their work, add videos, or add digital content and Seesaw is designed with the student doing all of this independently. What a powerful way to empower their students in their own education. Seesaw has also added a blog component which makes this tool even more powerful. All content can be viewed by classmates, the teacher, and their parents after being moderated by the teacher. All of this is for free. They do offer a school account which allows work to stay with the student throughout their time at the school but at this time, I don’t have any idea on cost. If affordable, I would definitely consider upgrading to a school account.
Another more practical and cost effective portfolio that I could use is Google Drive because I am lucky enough to work in a school district that has provided a Gmail address for all students. Once students have learned to navigate through Google Drive, it is quite easy for them to add different types of media to store work that they have been completed. This can also be done on multiple platforms using the Drive app. At the end of each year, students could create a folder for all of the work they completed that year and it would be available to them as long as they had this Google account. This is definitely a low frills portfolio but in the long run may be the most practical one for my students.
Online student portfolios would provide a way to document evidence on student progress and skills learned throughout a school year. With my aging memory, they would also refresh my memory of all the lessons taught throughout the year and provide a way to assess what can/should be changed for the following year.
NoodleTools flew under my radar until about a week ago when I saw a post on Facebook where my fellow librarians were raving about it and how useful it was for creating citations. With further investigation, I discovered that NoodleTools is so much more than that. NoodleTools helps keep track of a student’s progress through the research process and a place for students to keep their notes, outlines, citations, and their written document. Another positive is that NoodleTools is available for free but also provide a school account for a minimal cost. I have placed it on my wish list for databases that I would like to have and hope to be able to purchase it next school year.
With the prevalence of plagiarism due to the ease of copying and pasting directly from the Internet, NoodleTools could provide a way to teach students good habits that they will be able to use in high school and/or college. Although I teach students the importance of citing their sources and require them to write down the link that they used, they find it exceedingly difficult to create a citation and don’t grasp the implications of not properly attributing information from online resources.
One of the readings suggested using the student’s bibliography to assess the resources they used and I think this is a fabulous idea. I personally struggle with allowing students to select their own resources because invariably they end up at Ask.com or another website like it instead of seeking out reliable sources as they have been taught. To combat this problem, I usually pre-select sources for my students but I know realize that I really am not doing them any favors as they don’t get to practice evaluating resources which is something they desperately need.
I really like the idea of an exit interview with my sixth grade students mostly because this is the first group of students that only had me as their librarian. The only downside with this is that there are only a handful of students that have been in my school since Kindergarten and I don’t think it would be fair to only include these students in the exit interview.
It would be interesting to discover what skills and/or projects the students enjoyed the most. My practice has changed a lot over the years and although I have adjusted lessons based on my perceptions, its would be interesting to see the students side of the same project.
In my mind, an exit interview is a good starting point to establishing a library advisory council which is considered a best practice for school libraries. How are the two related? One looks at what has been done over the past 7 years and the other looks at what will be done in the next 9 months. Once I have feedback at the end of this year, I can take this information to the advisory council and get their input on how to improve based on the feedback.
An exit interview is also one of the EBP that would be difficult to “fudge” the results. Children can be brutally honest and in this case, that is what I am looking for them to do. As much as I would like to only hear from the students who have been in the school since Kindergarten, I also think it would be valuable to get feedback from students that have had a different librarian. Even within my school district, the librarians all have different styles and methods and although I believe I provide the instruction my students need, it would be interesting to hear how someone else did it better and adapt it to my situation.
Plans for EBP in the near future
The school year is almost over so I will be hard pressed to find all the evidence that I wished I had been gathering since September. But over the next few months, I will use exit tickets with my upper elementary students to gauge their perceptions of their learning. I will also be contacting the 6th grade teachers to set up a focus group for the exit interview as I am totally intrigued by what my students might say. I will be using Seesaw with my first grade students and provide parents with information on how they can access the work their child completed in the library.
My district is looking ahead at tough financial times and I think it is necessary for me to start gathering evidence to show how much impact the library has on my students’ ability to answer questions. As this is a skill that I work had on with all of my students, I think the evidence is there. I just need to gather it all into one place and share it with all of my stakeholders.