Five Ways To Close A Lesson

October 25, 2016 / by Gretchen Vierstra

Most of us realize the importance of a warm-up to get our bodies and minds ready, whether we're talking about exercising, singing, or learning. But what about the cool down? How you close a lesson is just as important as how you open it. Yet all too often, we run out of time. Or, we look at the clock, see our students are still working hard, and think to ourselves, why interrupt their flow? But there are proven benefits to taking even just one minute to wrap up a lesson.

In those last moments, you and your students have a chance to check for understanding, reflect on what you've learned, tie up loose ends, or make sure everyone is ready for the next part of the day. You could even just take a moment to breathe! If you're looking for new ideas on how to wrap up your next lesson, here are five things you can try.

End With A Quick Assessment

There are plenty of great formative assessment techniques to try at the end of a lesson (check out our Formative Assessment Deep Dive for more). If you're looking for a quick assessment to use tomorrow, try Tch Laureate Maria Perryman's play on the typical exit ticket. Watch and learn how she has her students write their exit tickets "Twitter-style." By doing so, she brings a fun nod to social media into her classroom, while giving her students a chance to practice writing concisely. With only 140 characters or less as a goal, her students need to choose their words carefully. And with fewer words to read, Maria can quickly assess what they've learned from the lesson. It's a win-win!

Take A Moment To Reflect

When we take time to reflect, we deepen our learning. But how often do we build reflection into our lesson plans? Having a bag of tried and true reflection activities might help you remember to plan the time to do them. Whether you have a full bag of tricks or not, watch this video to see how Sherwanda Chism ends her lesson with a whole class reflection called "Gems and Opportunities." This simple but powerful reflection activity is something you could start implementing tomorrow.

Try A Debrief Circle

Once you've gotten your students comfortable with reflecting on their learning, take it to the next level and try a structured debrief in order to give all students a chance to speak and to listen. Watch how Maria Ekmalian uses debrief circles as a way to deepen her students' learning through reflection. This strategy may take a little more modeling and practice than other reflection activities, but once the structure is in place, your students will begin to open up about their learning with the whole class. As you'll see in the video, it's also a great way to connect back to the learning goals you set at the beginning of the lesson.

Take A Moment To Show Appreciation

Instead of working up until the bell rings, why not use the last few minutes of a lesson to build class culture? In Encouraging Appreciation, David Olio explains that he often asks his students to write appreciations for each other on notecards. He then takes some time at the end of class to share out some of the cards. He says that the activity gives students a chance to show their appreciation while giving him an opportunity to better understand the strengths and needs of his class. For more ideas on building class culture, be sure to check out our Class Culture Deep Dive.

End With Relaxation

Many teachers use mindfulness techniques at the start of a lesson to help students focus and get ready to learn. How about using them at the end? Maybe your students are overly excited from engaging in the learning activity, or perhaps they're feeling a bit anxious if the task is especially challenging. Take a few minutes before the lesson ends to gather everyone together and breathe. Your students will be ready to calmly transition to their next lesson, whether it's with your or another teacher (wouldn't it be nice to give your colleagues relaxed and ready students?). To get started, watch how Anne Mechler uses guided relaxation to reset her students throughout the day.

Which of these ideas will you try tomorrow? What are other ways you like to wrap up your lessons?

Topics: Professional Learning, Class Culture, Assessment, Lesson Planning

Gretchen Vierstra

Written by Gretchen Vierstra

Gretchen Vierstra taught middle school for ten years in the San Francisco Bay Area. During her 15+ years in education, she’s also been a department chair, new teacher coach, curriculum developer, and policy analyst. She is Director of Educational Content at Teaching Channel.

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