Improve Students' Memory with the Exit Pass

Improve Students' Memory with the Exit Pass

How to make the most of your last few moments of class

by Sandy Sorensen, Learning Specialist

Our mission at The Joy School is to help students prepare for traditional school environments. With that in mind, I am always giving my students opportunities to show mainstreaming readiness by explaining what they learned in class – even in the last few minutes we spend together. Just because class is being dismissed doesn't mean we can't make the most of this time. That's where the exit pass comes into play.

(Pssst – attention parents! Scroll to the last section to skip the classroom tips and learn how you can use the exit pass at home!)

The exit pass is a simple way to increase students' retention of facts, build stronger relationships with kids and end class a positive note. At the end of class, I ask a quick question, make eye contact, wish the student a happy day and check his or her understanding of a concept we covered.

In addition, I get one last moment to assess the child's emotional state before leaving class. Are they tired, engaged, excited or upset? If there is an issue, I can pull the student aside to address it after everyone leaves.

Ms. Sorensen stands with a student during the exit pass. Ms. Sorensen is smiling and gesturing with her hands. The student is wearing a blue shirt and a red bow. Ms. Sorensen is wearing a purple shirt, jeans and a necklace.

Retention, Connection & More

Because my students expect something will need to be remembered after class, they are actively focused on retaining the information we cover. In fact, the expectation is so strong that sometimes students ask me for the exit pass if I haven't given it to them by the time they are getting ready to leave!

The exit pass benefits my classes in several ways:

  • Students tend to be more attentive in class.
  • The quick assessment of what students remember allows me to see if any breakdown has occurred.
  • It is my last chance to connect with students and send them off on a positive note.

What Happens When Students Get Stuck?

If a student gets stuck when it's their turn for the exit pass, I ask them to go to the back of the line and listen to what their peers are saying to help give them some ideas or to jog their memory. If a child is still stuck, I'll guide them through a quick lesson over the concept and make a note to revisit it the next day. I find that some of my slower processing students do better once they've had time to let a concept sink into their memory.

Sometimes my students get nervous because the exit pass is a tricky concept to remember. If a student is nervous, it's usually better to let someone who is more confident with the answer go first. This allows the student to hear an exchange of information on the topic. If the child is still nervous or confused, we'll figure out where the breakdown occurred and build from there.

What My Students Have to Say

Overall, my students enjoy the exit pass. They have my full, undivided attention to share their knowledge with me. They also get a moment to hear me pay them a specific compliment about their understanding or something they did well in class that day.

The most beneficial aspect is the exchange of mutual respect and connectedness I share with my students.

On top of that, they get to see me modeling attentive listening skills and speaking skills.

In their own words, here's what my students have to say about the exit pass.

  • "Exit passes are where you tell your teacher what you did today or what new vocab word you learned. It helps me get good grades if we have vocab exit passes." William
  • "One thing I love about the exit pass is that it reminds me what I did during class. It helps you for your next class because you remember the information you learned and can apply it to the next class." Evan
  • "Everyone gets in line, and Ms. Sorensen asks what we learned to make sure we actually learned it. Sometimes it's fun and we even smile." Amelie
  • "I like the exit pass because if you talk about something you learned today, then you can remember it when you do your homework." Justin
  • "Ms. Sorensen wants us to be able to remember what we learned in class. I like the exit pass because it helps me jog up my memory, and I like how I must try to remember what we learned that day." John

Do Try This at Home

Good news – the exit pass can work anywhere, and there are a variety of ways for parents to see the benefits!

For example, when your child gets out of the car in the morning, ask, "What's one thing you remember from your math homework?" or "What is one thing you want me to know about your morning at home today?" Bedtime is another great time to check in.

If a child tends to be negative, this questioning can elicit positive responses. A parent can ask the child to share the best thing about his or her favorite class, homework, game, sibling or self. For a child who struggles with broad ideas, narrow it down to a specific class, assignment, book or moment.

If you get stuck, make your child part of the process! Brainstorm questions together about what your child enjoys about school, their friends, books and more. Write these questions on a piece of paper, cut them out and put them in a jar. Your child can randomly pull out a question to answer at breakfast (or, for slower processors, he or she can think about a response until it's time to get out of the car at school). Or you can draw a question to close out the day before bedtime.

These simple questions support memory and learning, and they help build a more positive attitude. Use your imagination and be creative in finding interesting ways to build knowledge, memory and confidence in your child!


TJS teacher Sandy Sorensen smiling and wearing a blue top, earrings and a necklace

About the Author

Sandy Sorensen graduated from the University of Houston with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education. She taught first grade in Spring Branch ISD for six years, and then spent the next seven years in the same district teaching kindergarten through fifth grade. From 2001-2008 she taught kindergarten through fifth grade, and from 2006-2008 she specialized in small group intervention in math for kindergarten through fifth grade students. It was a victory for Sandy to teach children who were struggling academically, because she helped them discover strategies to enable them to learn more efficiently and to increase their self-confidence. In the fall of 2008, there was an opportunity for Sandy to join the staff at The Joy School teaching middle school language arts. It has been an incredible experience for Sandy, and she looks forward to many more years of helping children who attend The Joy School.

Degree Held
Bachelor of Science in Education from University of Houston


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