Thursday, October 23, 2014

The 9th Friday: Closing the Deal...

"Lesson designs that have weak closure rob students of the most important part of the lesson-the time when they have the opportunity to think about and discuss what they have learned. This is the time in the lesson when student reflection is necessary for internalization of the skills learned."
-Wolf & Supon, 1994

Obviously, the concept of lesson closure is not a new one to any educator reading this blog. Yet I agree with the authors that it is a very important component of any effective lesson, and I fear that we, on occasion, overlook it—mostly due to lack of time. Instead, we merely conclude the lesson by assigning homework or preparing for dismissal. Closure—what the teacher does to bring the lesson to an appropriate or logical conclusion by giving the learner an opportunity to bring together the things they have just learned—is an essential component of lesson planning and student learning.

Lesson closure can and should be a quick review to remind students what they learned and to assist in planning the next lesson(s). RickSmith (2004) identifies closure as the last few minutes of a lesson, which can be the most significant time of the entire lesson. Effective closure techniques can help teachers determine if additional practice is needed, if they need to reteach, or if they can move on to the next part of the lesson, unit, or concept. Closure is the final time to monitor student progress before moving on to the next learning objective. It is not enough to say, “Are there any questions?” as students begin gathering materials and tuning out. Teachers must plan for specific closing activities in order to maximize student learning. Lesson designs that have weak closure rob students of a critically important part of the lesson: an opportunity for them to think about, write about, discuss, and show what they have learned. This time of student reflection allows students to internalize the skills that have been taught. In general, lesson closure will take anywhere from two to eight minutes and is most effective when it actively engages students in reflecting on the day’s lesson. According to Pollock (2007), many teachers misunderstand closure and use it—if they use it at all—to restate in their own words what they have taught in the lesson. If teachers settle for summarizing the learning themselves, they get the benefit of the closure, not the students. Far better then, to get students actively engaged in “closing” the lesson.

Although we typically think of closure as occurring at the end of a lesson, in actuality it can occur at any time throughout the lesson when the teacher wishes to clarify key points and ensure that students have understood the intended learning objectives. Whenever it is used, closure serves the purpose of summarizing main ideas, evaluating class processes, making decisions regarding questions posed at the outset of the lesson, and providing a bridge between what has occurred and what will occur in future lessons. Used effectively, closure can help students know what they learned, why they learned it, and how it can be useful (Phillips, 1987).

It is very easy to fall into the trap of “closing” a lesson or lesson component simply by asking if there are any questions and moving forward. Again, it is important to go beyond this in order to decide whether or not students have mastered the intended learning and to add further insight and/or context to the lesson. I have seen most, if not all, of these effective closure techniques used already this year at our schools:

1. Ticket out the door: a one or two question check for understanding that students complete in a few minutes and hand to the teacher (or submit on a device) on the way out.
2. Go around the room asking each student to state on thing they learned that day.

3. 3-2-1: Students write three things they found interesting, two things they learned, and one thing they still have a question about.

4. 3-Whats: What did they learn today? So what? Now what?

5. One student interviews another about what was learned in the lesson.

6. Student assumes role of the teacher and presents a summary of the day’s learning to the rest of the class.

7. Students write a postcard to their parents about what they learned that day.

8. Students discuss how the lesson is relevant in their lives.

9. Students write in a journal two or three things they learned that day.

10. Stumping the Stars: Desks are turned so that both halves of the classroom face each other. One group asks the other group three questions about the lesson. Students get thirty seconds to answer. Reverse the teams. If a team cannot answer the question, they must research it and present the answer to the class the next day.

Of course, in a 1:1 environment, the possibilities are endless for closure activities using devices and tools such as Socrative, PollEverywhere, Kahoot, and a plenitude of other neat formative assessment sites. As always, however, it is not the technology that makes the difference, but the pedagogy driving the use of technology that makes the difference. Whether you use technology or more “old school” techniques, effective closure activities allow students to reflect upon and actively think about what happens in class. At the same time, they enable teachers to assess what students got and what they did not in order to plan for future learning. Including purposeful closure activities when planning and implementing our lessons is another way that we Teach with Passion! at our schools.

Book Bits…

As I have mentioned previously, O’Connor devotes a chapter each to 15 “broken” grading practices, offering a “fix” for each problem. This week, we look at the ninth problem, along with his fix:

Grades are broken when we assign grade based on a student’s achievement compared to other students. We should not compare students to each other; the fix is to base grades on preset achievement standards—to be criterion-referenced, not norm referenced in assigning grades. In doing so, we acknowledge that it is possible for all students to get an A or a 4 and for all students to get an F or a 1. 


  1. Jeff,

    This is a crucial topic that is often overlooked or downplayed. In my opinion, the best educators separate themselves from their peers with strong anticipatory sets and closures. I can simply tell the difference in teacher planning by witnessing a strong closing.

    I also wanted to add that your list of ideas for closure is extremely helpful. A few of these I had not heard of...Stump the Stars...neat idea. I typically see "Ticket Out The Door", and I realize its purpose, I just wish teachers would spice it up now and then.

    As always, thanks for sharing.


    1. Ben,
      Thank you for reading and commenting. You raise a good point that we need to mix it up. Just like any other part of our job, if we close the lesson the same way too often, it loses its appeal--and effectiveness--n matter how sound a technique it may be.