Sunday, October 27, 2019

Don't Forget Closure

There are many pedagogical techniques that run the gambit when it comes to instruction and learning. In a previous post, I discussed the importance of opening lessons with a bang, using an anticipatory set. Whether you call it a set, hook, or bell ringer is not the issue. What is, though, is the value the strategy has as part of a comprehensive lesson. Here’s why:
The anticipatory set is used to prepare learners for the lesson or task by setting their minds for instruction or learning. This is achieved by asking a question, adding a relevant context, or making statements to pique interest, create mental images, review information, and initiate the learning process. A good do-now activity can accomplish this.
While the opening moments with students are crucial, so are the final minutes. Think about this for a second. What’s the point of an objective or learning target, whether stated, on the board, or students have the opportunity to later discover for themselves, if there is no opportunity at the end to determine if it was met or reflected upon? Closure matters, yet virtually every lesson I observe in schools across the country are missing the crucial component. Here’s why. Learning increases when lessons are concluded in a manner that helps students organize and remember the point of the lesson. Closure draws attention to the end of the lesson, helps students organize their learning, reinforces the significant aspects of the lesson, allows students to practice what is learned, and provides an opportunity for feedback, review, and reflective thinking.

Kathy Ganske provides this take.
As in a puzzle, an effective lesson has many pieces that must fit together. We typically give considerable thought to how we initiate lessons: activate or build background knowledge, teach essential vocabulary, engage learners, and set a purpose for the lesson. And we carefully select tasks or activities and texts for use during the lesson. But closure is often given short shrift or omitted entirely. We need to be sure we plan time to cycle back to the what, why, and how of students’ learning to help them actively synthesize the parts into a whole. Lesson closure provides space for students to digest and assimilate their learning and to realize why it all matters. Closure is a component of planning and teaching that we can't afford to leave out.
A Google search will turn up a slew of ideas on how to close lessons. I prefer to keep it simple. First, make sure it is planned for and that at least three to five minutes are set-aside at the end of every period or block. Second, consider the following questions that students should answer or reflect upon in relation to the objective or learning target.

  • What exactly did I learn?
  • Why did we learn this?
  • How will I use what was learned today outside of school, and how does it connect to the real world?

Whether exit tickets, journals, whiteboards, or technology are used doesn’t really matter. What does is that closure is prioritized.

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