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Teaching Strategies

27 Super-Smart, Teacher-Tested Closing Activities

Quick (and fun) strategies to check for understanding, reinforce learning, and identify misconceptions in the last moments of class.

March 29, 2024

In the last few minutes of class, students’ minds are often focused on what awaits outside the classroom door—lunch, a pop quiz, a group presentation, unfinished homework, a chat with friends. 

But when students “abruptly go onto the next class” without a moment to make sense of what they just learned, we miss a valuable opportunity to reinforce newly acquired learning, says Sarrah Saasa, an economics teacher at the pre-K to 12 Riverside School in Ahmedabad, India. “We want to understand whether they’ve understood the concepts, so we close the loop with reflection.”

Just like “contracting your bicep at the top of a dumbbell curl,” quick reflective closure activities “squeeze extra oomph into a lesson,” writes Todd Finley, a professor of English education at East Carolina University. They’re an opportunity to surface and correct misunderstandings, emphasize key points, and consolidate recently learned content. Plus, they can help plot out important next steps in instruction. 

There’s not always time for closing activities, of course—even ones that require limited advance planning. But when you can spare a few minutes, especially at key junctures like the end of a chapter or project, they can offer brief but powerful opportunities to “correct, clarify, and celebrate,” says Finley. 

Quick Draw: Students select three main concepts from the day’s lesson and draw them. They can use words, symbols, or numbers where necessary. (Sourced from Ann Sipe

Teach a First Grader: In pairs, have students explain key concepts, vocabulary terms, or connections between concepts in ways that are simple and accessible to a first-grade student. (Sourced from Todd Finley)

Misconception Check: Introduce a common misunderstanding and challenge students to use what they learned in class that day to correct it. Alternatively, present students with a statement or solved equation and ask them to identify mistakes. (Sourced from Laura Thomas

Finger Facts: On a piece of paper, have students trace the outline of their hand. Each student writes down a key concept from the lesson on the palm of their drawing, adding a relevant fact to each finger. Have the class share their responses in pairs or small groups. (Sourced from Wendy Savage

Two-Dollar Summary: Tell students that each word they use is worth 10 cents, and they must write a two-dollar summary of what they learned in class today. (Sourced from Ann Lewis and Aleta Thompson)

Here’s What You Missed: In pairs, students complete a bulleted list of key takeaways from the day’s lesson to share with classmates who were absent. Encourage students to be thorough, as their peers may be encountering much of this information for the first time. (Sourced from Paul Holimon)

Rock, Paper, Scissors: Students identify the lesson’s most challenging element (the rock), a central concept they should write down to remember (the paper), and the least critical details they can cut (the scissors). (Sourced from Shannon Kenyon

Let Them Cheat: Ask students to create a “cheat sheet” for an upcoming quiz on the material they learned that day. They’ll need to rank facts, formulas, or vocabulary based on importance and synthesize key information. (Sourced from Ann Sipe)

This One Thing: Toward the end of the lesson, each student must describe the day’s lesson using a single word. To add a bit of movement, have students stand up and walk around the room, sharing their word with peers and explaining why they chose it. (Sourced from Jason Kennedy)

“What I Know Now” Gallery Walk: On a sticky note, each student writes down one new thing they feel confident enough to share from the lesson. After posting them on the wall, students walk around the room reading peers’ reflections. (Sourced from Greg Evans)

Three Ws: Students respond to three questions on sticky notes, index cards, or a sheet of paper that they hand in as they leave the classroom:

  • What did we learn today?
  • So what? (Why is this relevant, important, or useful?)
  • Now what? (Can you predict where the next lesson will go from here?)

(Sourced from Ann Sipe)

Singing Scholars: Students summarize main ideas from the lesson to the tune of their favorite song. They can record on their phones or, if some are feeling brave, perform it for the class! (Sourced from Todd Finley)  

Random Question Generator: Type up several closed and open-ended questions connected to the day’s or week’s learning and collect them in a container. One student reaches in and grabs a question for the class to answer. For example: What can you tell me about functions? Or, what is the formula for the area of a circle? (Sourced from Beth Fulmer)

Vocab in Verse: Choose a vocabulary word and write it on the board, then students create acrostic poems explaining what they’ve learned in class that day. (Sourced from Kristin Shapiro)

Anything to Add?: For students who have prior knowledge about a lesson or topic, ask the class to answer this question before leaving: Is there anything else about this topic that you know but I didn’t ask you? (Sourced from Kimberly Stiff

Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down: Create a short list of content-specific multiple-choice questions, and have students respond silently by simply putting a thumb up for A, down for B, pointed to the left for C, and to the right for D. Choose a couple of students at random to explain their choice. (Sourced from Ann Sipe) 

Take a Selfie: Students take a selfie of themselves making a face that represents how they feel about the day’s lesson. Ask them to include a caption that explains their choice. For a phoneless alternative, have students choose an emoji that best describes their feelings. (Sourced from Tarita Reeves

Jeopardy in Reverse: Provide an answer to the class—silver, for example. Next, have students each write a question that would lead them to that answer. For example, “Which element has the symbol Ag?” (Sourced from Ann Sipe)

Reflect Ball: After writing a handful of reflective questions—like “What strategies helped you learn today?”—on an inflatable beach ball with a dry erase marker, toss the ball around the room. The question a student’s hand touches when they catch the ball is the one they’ll answer aloud; then they pass the ball to a classmate. (Sourced from Eman Bekheet

Human Bar Graph: Create a long line with tape from one side of the room to the other. Toward the end of class, ask kids to place themselves on the line according to their level of understanding. Students who are confused line up on the left, students who feel confident on the right. Those who are unsure can stand in the middle. Kids can ask questions of their peers, then move along the line as their comprehension changes in real time. (Sourced from Literacy Minnesota

Muddiest Point: Ask students to identify where they lack clarity by answering the prompt, “What was most confusing to me about the material in class today?” Extend the activity by asking them to also identify their clearest point. (Sourced from Kimberly D. Tanner and Melanie Smith

Finger Signals: After raising a hand to chest level, students put up the number of fingers that correspond to their understanding of the topic:

  • 5—I can teach this to my classmate.
  • 4—I understand this well.
  • 3—I need more examples.
  • 2—I need you to teach it again. 
  • 1—I’m as lost as a sock in a dryer! (or something funny)

(Sourced from Mel Mercado)

Definition Dash: Allow students to briefly discuss vocabulary in small groups. Toward the end of class, everyone lines up and, in their own words, each student defines a key term to you before exiting the classroom. Students who struggle step aside and wait for a few of their peers to go by before trying again. Keep the tone light so that students don’t feel singled out. (Sourced from Ann Sipe) 

Think and Twist: To see how students’ thinking has changed from the start of the lesson to the end, have them answer the following prompt: “I used to think… now I think…” (Sourced from Jillian Coneys)

Quiz the Next Class: Have students work together to craft three quiz questions—could be true/false or multiple choice—that you will have the next class answer. (Sourced from Todd Finley)

Where Does This Fit?: Have students create a sequence of newly learned concepts on a line in their notebooks—based on chronological order, on importance of each topic, or in order from simple to most complex. For example, students learning about the water cycle could do this activity with terms like evaporation, condensation, and precipitation. (Sourced from Ann Sipe)

Fireworks and Feedback: Similar to highlighting roses and thorns, ask students to celebrate and share their fireworks—learning that sparked joy or a moment where a concept really clicked—and feedback, input from peers or teachers that helped them take a step forward. (Sourced from Jason Kennedy) 

What Did We Miss?

We received so many amazing suggestions from our educator community for this list. If you have your own favorite closure activities, please share them in the comments.

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