Thanks to race to the top in Tennessee, there is a new evaluation system for teachers. This has caused tremendous amounts of stress among my coworkers and myself. Thirty-five percent of our yearly evaluation is linked to our students’ test scores. Fifty percent tie to professional evaluations. Fortunately, there is a rubric that explains the expectations for the evaluations. A teacher must post the daily objective and state standard. While I never posted the verbatim state standard, posting a daily objective was not new. The new part for me came with the requirement that I measure mastery at the conclusion of every lesson. I used to finish class with, “Here is your homework. Get busy on it.” the students would normally fake interest in the assignment and end up spending the last ten minutes of class talking. This was wasted class time.
Now that my job depends on this new evaluation system, I decided I needed to rethink the end of my classes. (Tenure is also out the window in TN. Two years of consecutive low ratings and you can be let go.) I always heard about Tickets out the Door and other such items and didn’t put much stock in them. I’m a believer now.
Here are some brief activities I have gathered that meet the requirement to measure mastery daily, without requiring too much preparation or time.
1. Ticket out the Door: This is a classic closure activity, but I don’t pre make mine. I have a stack of scrap paper cut into small squares and I hand them out and have students work a final problem in the last five minutes. Sometimes I have students grade them in class or sometimes I collect and grade. I never take an actual grade on them and so far, the students don’t seem to mind. It is amazing the effort they will put into this when you tell them, “Show me what you learned!”
2. Show me your sign: I taught my students sign language for the letters A, B, C, and D. At the end of class, I put a multiple choice question on the board. I give the students time to work the question. When time is up I say, “Show me your sign!” The students show the correct hand signal for the answer they got. This gives me a quick way to scan the room and see if the majority of students mastered the objective for the day or if we need to review it in the starter for the next day.
3. Find my Mistake: I have students work a given problem and make an intentional mistake. Students then trade papers to try and find each others hidden errors. I collect these at the end of the block. The students really get into this one, trying to make the mistake subtle and difficult to find.
4. Tweet It: Students are asked to use their cell phones (our school allows this) or are provided with a notecard. I ask the students to tweet one thing they learned in class today that is related to the daily objective. If they use their cell phones, they are required to hashtag our class so we can go back and read them later. This requires creativity since the students are limited on characters.
5. Write my Starter: I ask students to create a problem with a solution for our starter for the following day. I collect these and then type one up for the next day. I give credit to the student. They love to see their name on the projector and are proud when their problem is chosen.
When this new evaluation system started, I was overwhelmed and frustrated with the feelings of having to jump through hoops, but I can honestly say it has made me a better teacher. I now think about everything I do in class and if it measures learning and relates to the objective. I find I waste less time, but I’m still working on my transitions of activities. Overall, I never leave a class anymore without knowing if my students got it. Sometimes they do, and that is a great feeling, and sometimes I leave knowing I have to back up and punt tomorrow. Either way, I know and that’s progress.
By the way, I’m always on the hunt for closing activities that measure learning, so post away in the comments. Thanks!