The Last Five Minutes of Class

students in class

A previous post looked at the First Five Minutes of Class. James Lang also has some ideas for The Last Five Minutes of Class.

The last fine minutes of class often degenerates into a struggle between the teacher to just get through two/three/five/seven more points, students eager to get out and get to their next class and those desperate to ask a question. How can we structure the last five minutes of class to close out the class effectively?

The Minute Paper

A tried and method to help students review what they have just learned. Have students write down:

  • what was the most important thing you learned?
  • what question do you still have?

Socrative offers and easy to use online version of this with their Exit Ticket function.

Closing connections

Learning involves constructing personally meaningful connections to new information. Students can be encouraged to extend their thinking to make connections to the world around them.
Finish class five minutes early and tell them they can leave when they identify five ways the class content relates to contexts outside the classroom.

Lang gives examples:

In my class period on Browning’s monologues, for example, I might ask students to list five popular songs in which the “speaker” clearly does not represent the voice of the singer. In a marketing class on the role of packaging you might ask students to give you five examples of distinctive product packaging that spring to mind. You can write them on the board or have students post the examples to a course website. Make it three items instead. Or take 10 minutes instead of five. Vary according to your taste and classroom.

The Metacognitive Five

Students often think they can learn the material by reviewing they notes over and over again. It is actually an ineffective strategy. The final five minutes can be used to let students know how best to prepare for the next assessment.
Lang did a survey in class asking students how they study best. He they did a correlation between answers and scores on the midterm. The evidence was clear;

Low-performing students used phrases like “reviewed my notes” and “reread the poems”; the students who aced the exam said things like “wrote an outline,” “rewrote my notes,” “organized a timeline,” “tested myself,” and “created flashcards.”

He showed a side-by-side comparison showing the differences to encourage students to think about how they were learning and reflect on effective strategies.

Imagine what a difference we could make if we all took five minutes — even just a few times during the semester — to offer students the opportunity to reflect on their learning habits. We could inform their choices with some simple research, and inspire them to make a change.

Close The Loop

Circle back to how you started the class. If you used the strategies in the post The First Five Minutes of Class. finish off by mirroring those strategies. If you opened with questions, close by revising the questions and having students formulate answers. If you started with what did we learn this class, close with having them summarise what they learned in this class. If you started with testing their prior knowledge, close by having them think about whether the class confirmed or contradicted what they knew.

Focused, structured tactics to the last few minutes of class can cement the learning of the whole class time.

What are your ways to finish classes effectively?