Reading between the students

… AKA “The Emotional Exit Slip”

I have been working with children and teens in various roles for the last 9 years; Sparks/Brownies, soccer coaching, math and reading tutoring, reading volunteer, and as a parent of 4 kids of my own. Currently I have the privilege to work in a Grade 8 classroom as a pre-service teacher. I have seen the dynamics of the schoolyard, a classroom, a gymnasium full of little girls. I have been the shoulder that my own kids have cried on through the ebb and flow of popularity and belonging.

left out
Some kids often feel left out

That is why when the below story popped up on my facebook feed from 2 years ago, it was a welcome reminder of one teacher’s method that has stuck with me since I first read it. It speaks to the very heart of the “connectedness” that I believe is key to a child’s success in the classroom, and in life. Rereading this article, I was reminded that the teacher in the story started using this strategy right after the Columbine shooting. In the wake of the LaLoche tragedy last month, I believe this type of “emotional exit slip” is a way that teachers can keep a pulse on their students’ mental health.

Below is an excerpt of the original article published in 2014 on

“Every Friday afternoon Chase’s teacher asks her students to take out a piece of paper and write down the names of four children with whom they’d like to sit the following week. The children know that these requests may or may not be honored. She also asks the students to nominate one student whom they believe has been an exceptional classroom citizen that week. All ballots are privately submitted to her.

And every single Friday afternoon, after the students go home, Chase’s teacher takes out those slips of paper, places them in front of her and studies them. She looks for patterns.

Who is not getting requested by anyone else?

Who doesn’t even know who to request?

Who never gets noticed enough to be nominated?

Who had a million friends last week and none this week?

You see, Chase’s teacher is not looking for a new seating chart or “exceptional citizens.” Chase’s teacher is looking for lonely children. She’s looking for children who are struggling to connect with other children. She’s identifying the little ones who are falling through the cracks of the class’s social life. She is discovering whose gifts are going unnoticed by their peers. And she’s pinning down- right away- who’s being bullied and who is doing the bullying.”

Having two of my own kids in middle years right now, this speaks volumes to me. The recent RAP training that I completed spoke of the four quadrants of the Circle of Courage – Belonging, Mastery, Independence and Generosity. As a middle years teacher, I believe that using the above strategy provides a safe “emotional check-up” with each student in a non-threatening way. But this is only the first step. By looking at the patterns – the lonely, the outcasts, the students who may be bullying or bullied – a teacher can find where a student’s circle is broken, and develop one-on-one and classroom strategies that enable those students to connect with someone. Maybe it’s a classmate, a reading buddy in a younger class, an older mentor, or a teacher. Connectedness and positive self-esteem can make a huge impact on a student feeling like an important part of the class, school and community. Ultimately these are the experiences that our students will remember, and without these connections, learning cannot begin.

So teachers, how can you foster connectedness in your classroom? Do you see other ways to use the data this activity collects?

Parents, do you check in with your kids who they connect to in the class? Does it change week to week? How might this help your understanding and connectedness with your own child?


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