Class is over! Three simple words that can portray a very different meaning depending on the tone of the delivery. On some days, the utterance of these words indicates great joy as students scutter out of the classroom. On other days, these words are aired with despair due to the excitement of the day’s activities. In both situations, the effectiveness of the ending is important to capture student learning and direct future decisions. Making the ending meaningful and effective for student learning takes planning, time, structure, and commitment.
There are several ways teachers choose to end the class period. Popular ways to end include the utilization of exit slips and written reflection. Unfortunately, when pacing is off and time is escaping, class endings tend to be cut short, rushed, or eliminated altogether. While this is going to happen from time to time, habitual exercise of these endings ultimately impacts the overall effect and impact of student learning.
One of the class ending protocols that I find both enjoyable and impactful is what I call the Full Circle Connection protocol. In this protocol, students are taught the routines of how to circle up in both small group formations and large group formations. Teaching students how to circle up in both formation increases variety in how this protocol can be used. Teachers may wish to use small groups for time-restricted moments or in-depth moments. The large group formation may be used when more time is available or to get a feel for the whole class experience. Teaching student circle up routines should include moving furniture (desks, chairs, etc.) if needed and what it means to arrange the group or groups into a circle. Depending on the purpose of the circle, arranging chairs for a seated conversation should be practiced or standing in place should be modeled. Practicing body movement such as eye contact, body positions, and other good listening gestures can be highlighted to improve social skills and interactions.
At the ending of a class, devoting 10 minutes as a closing activity could be powerful. An example of what that might look like could be:
- Project a prompt for students to summary the main points of the activity or lesson.
- Provide one-minute of think time.
- Provide 30 seconds of move time (to small group circles–yes, this can be done if the routine is practiced).
- Assign a leader to begin (could be a class job or in a creative way with objects, cards, descriptor…person wearing the most orange, etc.)
- Each student provides a brief summary (limited to a minute).
- After 5-7 minutes, groups return to seats or to whole-class formation.
- Leaders from each group provide a summary statement.
Formulating Questions Example:
- Project a prompt for students to write a higher-order thinking question based on the activity or lesson.
- Provide two-minutes of think time (this will take longer until students have practice with the routine).
- Provide 30 seconds of move time.
- Assign a leader.
- Each student takes turn reading his or her question without commentary from other students (10 seconds per student).
- The group decides on a question to explore.
- Each student takes one-minute to respond to the question.
- After 7 minutes, group returns to whole-class formation.
- Leaders share question with whole group. A list is generated for future exploration.
For me, I would have students stand in a circle during these moments. Each example could be expanded into a much larger lesson. Practicing these routines will eventually increase the flow and pacing. Honoring the learning can help with recall and it can lead to deeper discoveries. Circles create an more intimate experience empowering students both socially and emotionally. Building this level of support in a classroom opens students up to seek clarification and explore topics at a higher level. If teachers respond to these connections, formative feedback can positively impact student learning.