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Exit Slips: Effective Bell-Ringer Classroom Activities

John Davis Jr.


One teaching objective frequently used by administrators and educational evaluators is the old adage “Teach bell-to-bell.” Sometimes, however, this wise advice is easier given than done.

Teachers find themselves with five or even ten vacant minutes at the end of class, and they ask themselves, “What now?” While some may opt to allow students additional “study time” or “early homework time,” such a plan usually goes awry, and students begin chattering, antagonizing one another, and generally become disruptive in the absence of an actual purpose.

 A better answer to the “dead time” issue comes in the form of Exit Slips: simple index cards or short sentence strips that allow students the opportunity to demonstrate mastery over the day’s subject matter.

When those final few minutes of class arrive, three classroom activities are available:

  • 1.  Review
  • 2.  Prediction
  • 3.  Critical thinking

Each option comprises a worthy role that exit slips can play in even the most diverse classrooms.

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The first of these options, review, is perhaps the most basic. It seems only natural to most professional educators that daily class should end with a brief overview of facts covered in the minutes prior to the end of the period.

One of my personal favorite ways to do this is with a five-fact (or five-finger) review – “List five things we learned in class today on your exit slip.” Such an inquiry can be re-worded or reworked for more advanced learners – “Recall five things discussed in class, and rank them in importance from most relevant to least relevant.”


Another possible purpose for exit slips is to allow students to use their prediction skills.

A common question used to stimulate students’ predicting is, Considering what we discussed in class today, what might we do tomorrow?” This style of prompt works for nearly any subject area, as nearly every class uses continuing curriculum. A good rle to give students regarding exit slip responses has to do with the subject of length. Ordinarily, three to five well-written sentences should suffice, unless the question involves deeper thinking (see next paragraph).

Critical Thinking Classroom Activities

A final purpose for exit slips involves critical thinking. The possibilities for this type of exit slip prompt are endless: “How might you have taught today’s lesson if you were the teacher?” is one of my all-time favorites.


Such a question forces students to recall and reflect upon the day’s class content, while simultaneously, students provide the teacher with a metacognitive analysis. What strategy would have worked best for this student? The answer is usually found in his or her exit slip response. Whether the student is a visual, auditory, musical, naturalistic, or tactile-kinesthetic learner, their reply will reveal how they would have learned best. By using these responses, the teacher can better plan and prepare for future lessons that are effective, relevant, and retainable.


So the next time those last few minutes of class are rolling around, as books close and laptops shut, exit slips may be the answer for teaching bell-to-bell. Review, prediction, and critical thinking can happen at any time, but having students do so quickly at the end of class will serve to reinforce and cement subject matter into the minds of targeted learners. Teaching an entire class period is a realistic and worthwhile expectation, and by using best practices such as exit slips, fulfilling that expectation becomes easier and more enjoyable.


What bell-ringer activities do you use in class? Share in the comments section!

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