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How Using Math Exit Slips Saved My Life

I Am A Math Workshop Addict! 

Any other math workshop teachers out there? I absolutely love math workshop - it is my passion. I am constantly reading teacher books and thinking about ways to improve my reading, writing, and math workshops. While there are lots of benefits to the workshop style of teaching, there are also a few drawbacks. 

Assessment seems to be an issue that comes up a lot with my colleagues. Us upper elementary teachers need grades, (unless we are lucky and have standardized report cards) and grades are often hard to come by in a true math workshop. So today I'm here to talk with you about one of the ways I grade formatively assess my students during workshop.

In true math workshop style, students are learning and discussing new skills during a short mini-lesson (not exactly a place to earn a grade). Students then move into the workshop portion of the session to practice (either previous skills or the new skill they were taught that day). Since students are authentically practicing skills, this time should be a place for students to grow and learn from their mistakes, not to be assessed for a grade. 

There are some days when I collect notebooks to assess student progress, and I am always working with small strategy and intervention groups as well as conferring with individuals to assess progress. But again, it's hard to give grades during those times because everyone is doing something different. 

Our math workshop ends each day when students come back together to share/discuss what they learned/practiced and again this should be a comfortable, stress free place for students to talk about what went well and what didn't. So, while authentic teaching, learning, and assessing is happening - grading is not.

And, since I am still expected to enter grades into a grade book, I panic when the end of the marking period nears and my grade book is as empty as a bird's nest in December. Anyone else been there? Yikes!

Enter The Exit Slip 

This little guy has saved my life, literally. No more making up silly assignments just to get grades. (Gulp, confession time) This guy truly assesses my student's understanding each day (bonus) and can be entered into my grade book as a grade (double bonus). Rush of relief! I hand out an exit slip at the end of math workshop time daily.  

I love exit slips so much that I've created one for almost every school day.  I place them in a binder that I can easily grab from all year long!  

Keep reading for some surprise math exit slip freebies at the end of this post! 

Click HERE to see ALL the 3rd through 6th grade math exit slips in my TPT store.

Math Exit slips are designed to bring closure to your math lessons. I use slips that have fewer than four tasks to complete and should take students approximately 5 minutes to finish. 

I collect the sheets and my formative assessment needs are met. In just minutes I can quickly form piles of students who have a concept mastered, who are almost there, and who need intervention. Now I can plan my instruction for the next day. I know if I can move on or not, and who I'll need to check in with for extra practice. Exit slips ensure 'No student gets left behind' in my classroom!!!

Where do I get the exit slips? 

I've created them based on each unit I teach. I'm a firm believer in backward design. Before I begin a new unit, whether it is informational writing, character development, or order of operations, I start with the common core standards and create the summative (final) assessment (if one isn't already provided by my district). (See my math assessment packs HERE

Then, I work backward. I start by breaking the assessment into three or four chunks and create formative assessments (quizzes) to give along the way to inform my instruction of those skills and help provide intervention when needed, instead of when it's too late. 

I break each formative assessment (quiz) into chunks which become lessons. Lastly, I create an exit slip assessment for each lesson. Yes, I said EACH lesson. Exit slips are short and sweet. Mine are only a half page and usually consist of 2 to 4 questions. It takes me about an hour to create all of the exit slips for the unit. Then I print them, copy them, and I have my daily lessons organized and ready to go.

Why use exit slips? 

Not only are they quick and easy to create, but they are also quick and easy to grade. They only take about 5 minutes for students to complete, and most importantly they tell you instantly who is ready to move on and who needs more practice. True formative assessment! Plus, double whammy, grades for the grade book. But what about homework? I think exit slips are a better assessment than homework, because, well, homework is often done with the help of someone else.

Don't wait for the big test to figure out who doesn't get it! With frequent math exit slips you can quickly assess your students and know immediately who has it and who doesn't. Math exit slips are a MUST in every best practice classroom!

All you math workshop junkies with empty grade books, if you'd like to try out using exit slips in your classroom - here's a  Decimals FREEBIE  and Place Value FREEBIE from my Decimal Numbers Assessment Pack and Place Value Assessment Pack.  I hope you find them useful.




I would love to hear how you are already using exit slips in your classroom!!

The Secret to Testing Success - Teach Critical Test Prep Vocabulary All Year Long!

FREE SAMPLE ALERT: I have something amazingly exciting for you to try out to ensure your students will have success on the state test this school year!

I've been working hard on creating a test-prep instruction pack to go along with my best selling Common Core Critical Verbs vocabulary word wall set. 

This instruction pack is really helping me to intentionally introduce each vocabulary word to my students plus it's giving my students time to analyze, discuss, and master each individual word. And I'm sooo happy with their progress. 

After all, students can't do well on the state test, if they don't know what the state test is asking them to do, right?!?

This test-prep vocabulary instruction pack contains 12 weeks worth of critical verb test prep practice. 

I'm so excited for you to try this resource out, so I'm posting a FREE SAMPLE of Week 1 for everyone to have! 

I would love your feedback on the resource if you choose to download!!  

The free sample includes four critical verbs commonly found in the directions of state tests.  Students will study the words all week and then take a quiz over the words on Friday.  See below for pictures of the graphic organizers and quiz included.

If you love the free sample,  download the full 12-week resource HERE.   

Also, check out the other test prep resources I have available in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store and help your students ACE that big test this year!

Get to Know Your Readers With Reading Response Letters - and Do Away with Pesky Reading Logs Forever

Procedures & Expectations in the Upper Elementary Classroom

Who Needs to Use Reading Response Letters in the Classroom?

You do! They are the perfect supplement to your daily conferring during Reading Workshop time! Reading Response Letters guarantee you hear from each reader, each week! They also replace those pesky reading logs (you know the ones that everyone lies on anyway - sorry/not sorry).

Reading Response Letters:

  • Allow your students time to reflect on their reading and to think deeply about the text 
  • Give you the opportunity to respond and guide/push your reader's thinking about text
  • Offer authentic situations to write/talk about text with an adult and peers
  • Are a safe place to ask questions about text, practice and write about reading comprehension strategies, and give and offer book recommendations

So What are You Waiting For?

Grab my freebie to see if you can make Reading Response Letters work in your classroom this year! This freebie outlines the procedures and expectations needed for success.

Reading Response Letters are the best way to see what your students are reading.

Learn from My Mistakes

I've experimented with Reading Response Letters ever since Fountas and Pinnell published their first Guided Reading book. It took me several years to fine tune a set of Reading Response Letter procedures/expectations.

Reading Response Letters in the Classroom
** Affiliate Link **

Stick With it and You Won't Regret the Outcome

I must admit, I wanted to give up and give in many times. Grading and responding to Reading Response Letters can get very overwhelming without an organized system. But don't fear, I'm sharing my tips and tricks with you so you you don't have to reinvent the wheel.  Click HERE to learn more about Reading Response Letters today!

Use this sample to model reading response letters for your students.

A simple way to get all your students writing complete paragraphs

What is a paragraph?

Raise your hand if your students struggle with writing proper paragraphs? Me!! Me!!

If your students are like mine, they write entire essays all in one paragraph or they don't understand the components of a paragraph so they just break up their writing wherever they want.

Sound familiar?

I'm constantly telling my students, "break up your writing into paragraphs," but it just doesn't happen. Why not??  Because I finally realized my students don't even know what a proper paragraph is.  Ahhhhhh!!!!

Once this realization hit me, I decided that next week our writing workshop focus will be all about writing complete paragraphs - understanding the components of a paragraph, and remembering to indent new paragraphs. We've got to check off proper paragraphing skills before middle school.  Right??

To hit this skill I created Paragraph Writing 101.  This lesson can also be found in my Opinion Writing 101 Unit - but I pulled it out to work on next week and to give to you as a free sample from my new Writing 101 Series.  

This FREE Paragraph Writing Lesson Sample from my Writing 101 Series will help you teach your students HOW to write a proper paragraph. Let me do the lesson planning to make your life EASIER! 

Paragraph Writing 101 will teach your students the T.E.E.E.C. paragraph formula to ensure your writers never forget a topic sentence, example sentences and a closing sentence again!!

Included in this Paragraph Writing FREE lesson is the following:

► A Lesson Plan
► A Word Wall Card
► A Learning Target Slide
► Two Practice Slides
► Two Student Book Practice Pages

After teaching this lesson, your students will have a better understanding of how to write a proper paragraph! No more one paragraph essays!!!

I hope you find this resource as helpful as I do.

Enjoy and happy paragraphing!!!!

4 Ways to Conquer Cooped Up Craziness!!!

Anyone else's students a little rambunctious lately?  In Michigan, our kiddos have been cooped up way too long without fresh air and Vitamin D and it's causing an unhealthy case of "stir crazy!"

1. Stick to Your Guns

When the craziness sets in each year, I always start to pull my hair out in frustration, but then I remember that the crazy can be conquered with routine consistency (review and practice those classroom rules over and over) and 'sticking to my guns' per say. Otherwise, I'll end up looking like the meme below.......Ahhhhhhhhhh

2.  Give Me Five

Instead of trying to pull out all the bells and whistles or doing a little song and dance to keep em' entertained, I simply become more structured. In our school we use "Give Me 5" as our attention grabber. When I need my student's attention (after a quick turn and talk to a partner, or voices are just getting a little too loud) I put one hand in the air and say Give me 5, and then I quietly count backward until 1.  I show the counting backward on my fingers and other students join in as well. When I get to 1, any students who are still talking receive a warning.

3.  Be strong!

If a student earns a warning, give it to him/her regardless of how you feel. Students crave fairness and it will only take a time or two before the craziness begins to subside. Click HERE for a FREE editable template (created by my teammate Stephanie Rye of Forever in Fifth Grade) to help you set up a warning consequence system with your students and to help you keep track of those warnings.

4.  Prior Proper Planning

Unstructured time is also a nightmare during these long winter months when the kids don't get near enough exercise.  I make sure to plan for every. single. minute. of. the. day! To fight the frenzy, I return to the uber organized and over prepared teacher I was in September!!  Sometimes, at this point in the year, we have all started to slack a bit in our routines and expectations and that can fuel the fire. When our day is properly planned, our classroom runs like a well oiled machine (most of the time LOL).

Further, transition times are where all heck begins to break loose when we haven't had recess for a week.  I make sure that every transition follows the SAME routine.  Before we make the transition I always say "When I say Go - (and then I give the directions, for example) - quietly bring your reading folder, notebook, pencil and book to your spot on the carpet.  I'll meet you there in 2 minutes. You may GO." Or, "When I say Go, you need to put your math paper inside your math folder and line up for library. You may Go." This way students are listening because they're waiting for me to say GO, they also don't move while I'm giving directions (which drives me insane).

If several students are not transitioning properly, I choose some students to act out a review of what it SHOULD NOT and SHOULD look like when coming to the carpet, or lining up.  Then, I give out warnings to students who continue to not follow procedures.  I remind myself to 'stick to my guns,' be fair, be consistent and I will conquer the crazy!!!  Good luck and fingers crossed for some warmer temperatures to get these kids outside running around!

Find Read Aloud Books That Your Students Will Love

Fifth grade teacher friends, are you looking for the best 5th grade read aloud books?

If you're like me you probably enjoy switching up your read alouds once in awhile and trying something new.  But finding that something new can be a lot of work. When I'm looking for my next read aloud I ask my coworkers for ideas, scour my favorite celebriteacher blogs, stalk the Nerdy Book Club blog, and take recommendations from my fellow literacy fanatics on Instagram.  All of these steps take time and I'm spending this time over and over again throughout the year. Why is finding the perfect read aloud always so hard?

Cue lightbulb -

and then it hit me.........

I realized that instead of repeating this process continuously, I needed to put all of these AMAZING recommendations into a list that I could refer to whenever needed.  AND even better, that I could share with all my fifth grade teacher friends like you!!!

So, here it is friends!!  The BEST fifth grade read alouds - chosen by those who know best.  You!!!


All of these recommendations were gathered through your responses on my Wild About Fifth Grade and our Fifth Grade Freebies Facebook pages.  I threw in some of my own personal favorites as well.

To make your life even easier, because who has time to search for things?!?, here are links to the read alouds mentioned in the FREEBIE if you're interested.

Historical Fiction:


Realistic Fiction: 


Fantasy/Science Fiction:


Happy Reading!!!

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