Small-Group Pedagogy Mini-Series: Closing a lesson (or “Wrapping It Up”)

  • 3 minute read
  • 10 June 2021

This blog is the fifth in a series of 5. Let’s introduce closing a lesson. You can access the first blog here, the second here, third part here, the fourth here.

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a teacher who doesn’t think the introduction to a lesson is extremely important and time should be spent ensuring it is purposeful and engaging, but often the conclusion of that same lesson isn’t given the same treatment. Is this because it’s not as valuable or because there are fewer ideas being discussed on ways to close a lesson? Or is it because we’re realistic about time escaping us and knowing we won’t get to it? , “I think the wrap-up should get the same attention as the opening, so it’s only fitting that closing the lesson is our final pedagogical strategy for this series. 

Closure is a “satisfying ending” and not just an ending, as pointed out by Ganske (2017). Skipping a proper ‘wrap up’ is similar to an abrupt ending to a movie or book. Like exercise, the cool-down is just as important as the warm-up. 

An effective wrap up helps students to draw ideas together while solidifying and internalising a lesson focus (Ganske, 2017). It also provides students and teachers with direction and next actions. Phillips (1987) states “closure helps learners to know what they learned, why they’re learning it and how it can be useful.” Furthermore, closing a lesson does not need to be overly complicated. A reserved five minutes and a single well-considered objective can effectively provide students with space to organise knowledge and connect this to other schemes and contrive meaning. 

Some examples of simple, effective ‘wrap ups’

  • “What have you learned today? What surprised you?” 
  • “3-2-1”: 3 things learned; 2 questions; 1 thing for the teacher to know. 
  • Two stars and a wish (and the alternatives). This could be directed at the teacher, peer feedback or teacher feedback to students. 
  • A post-summary – Ask students to email any follow-up questions or for a summary to articulate what they learned.

Pollock (2007) calls out: 

“Often, teachers misunderstand the importance of having students participate in the closure portion of the lesson: many teachers summarise in their own words what they’ve taught during the lesson. If the teacher summarizes, it’s the teacher who gets the benefit of the closure exercise, not the students” (p. 69)  

There is plenty of research about the benefits of active participation during wrap-ups instead of passive listening to the teacher’s prepared ‘key takeaways’, such as this abbreviated research paper.

More examples: 

  • Exit tickets 
  • ‘Thumbs up, thumbs down or so-so’ (self-reflection of understanding) 
  • Asking students for feedback about the lesson 
  • Re-connecting to the purpose – “Why are we learning this?” 
  • KWL charts 
  • This Edutopia article has 22 other powerful closure activities, including print out PDF cards. (I’m personally keen to try number 18 and reinforce the power that is collective wisdom!) 

Plus don’t forget some of the Checking for Understanding strategies from the other article: 

  • First to Five 
  • Traffic Light System 
  • Whip around or pass

These little conclusion moments are also great opportunities to share with parents and carers about what is being explored during teacher-student conversations and mini-lessons.

Pedagogical Reflection: 

How can I help hold myself accountable to dedicating enough time to effectively conclude my lesson?

Well, you’ve made it to the end of this pedagogy series! Throughout term 2, we’ve explored pedagogical ideas and strategies to get the most out of working in small groups. We explored active participation, think alouds, checking for understanding and examples and non-examples. However, what would these strategies look like altogether within a mini-lesson? Here is a video doing just that! 

Author: Maths Pathway

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