Teaching Tip: Ending a Day's Class
All too often, meetings end with teachers shouting out a few last-minute reminders as students pack up their books and exit the room. Instead of a chaotic end to the class, here are a few ideas for wrapping up each meeting in a positive, reflective way. The key to all these learning activities is timing—you must make sure you manage your time well so you can implement these activities while not making them feel rushed.
End with a minute paper
Minute papers are one of the most common classroom assessment techniques (CATs) advocated by Angelo and Cross. At the end of each class meeting, have students write for a few moments on a topic such as "What was the most important thing you learned in class today?" or "What questions from today's class remained unanswered?" This activity provides a few moments of reflection for students as well as some valuable feedback for the teacher. Some teachers use the minute paper as a "ticket" to exit the classroom.
As a variation, Margaret McIntosh suggests asking students to respond to this prompt: "Here are some things I learned in class today, here are some questions I have about the topic, and here are some things I don't even understand well enough to ask about."
This common small group activity can be used to encourage reflection and small-scale collaboration at the end of the class period. Individuals think or write for a few moments about what was most interesting, surprising, or confusing idea in the day's class. They then turn to another classmate (or two) and discuss their ideas briefly. Then groups are given the opportunity to share their ideas with the larger class (or randomly called on). Think-pair-share activities usually take a bit longer because of the sharing component, but they work well in classes where collaboration is encouraged.
If you are using group work during a class period, add a group reflective exercise to help combat the "can we leave now?" tendency in group work. Require each group to write a brief reflective report—which they must submit before leaving class—in which students must answer questions about what they learned, what questions they have, what they did to help each other learn, and what could they do better next time. It is very similar to the activities above, but adds the group process component to encourage reflection and goal setting within groups.
The activities above are designed for students, so here is one for the teachers. Right after the class, send an e-mail message out to the class, highlighting a few important things that happened, reminding them about announcements or changes made to schedules or assignments, and thanking particular people for their contributions to the class. This can serve a larger purpose of adding some closure to each class meeting. Consider adding a twist by having students create the summaries.
Angelo, Thomas A. and K. Patricia Cross. Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers, 2nd ed. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 1993.
Cummings, Alysa. "Thinking Skills Strategy: Cooperative Closure." Learning 21, no.6 (1993): 37-38.
Maier, Mark H. and Ted Panitz. "End on a High Note: Better Endings for Classes and Courses." College Teaching 44, no. 4 (1996): 145-148.
McIntosh, Margaret E. "Ending with a Bang, part II." The Teaching Professor, June 1995: 45-46.