Danielle Boggs, Champaign, IL firstname.lastname@example.org
I like to think of closure as the season finale of that series I have been binge-watching. It builds and builds, and when you finally get to the season finale, it either gives you a sense of closure and understanding or intrigues you, leaving you wanting more for the next season. This is what we want lesson closure to do for students – provide a sense of clarity, curiosity, or intrigue as we summarize our learning and reflect on the fact that we may not quite be there yet. You might already be thinking, “Yeah I know. I’m supposed to do a closure for every lesson, but I just can’t.” Guess what? You are not alone! Getting to closure can be a challenge. No one is going to argue with that. And here’s why…
- You have this great lesson plan, and then BAM… Life, students, and learning happen.
- You have that one team that takes you off-topic to share about their volleyball or basketball game.
- You have several teams so into their conversations that you do not want to cut them off.
- You are circulating and need to call an unexpected Huddle because students are struggling with something you did not anticipate.
- You are using your pocket questions to gather formative assessment feedback, and you are trying to get to every team.
- The bell is about to ring, and students are not done with all the problems you had planned. You think to yourself, “Dag nabbit; looks like there won’t be closure today” and tell your students to clean up, reminding them to do their Review & Preview as they head out the door.
Does this sound or feel familiar? It is a daily struggle for sure. All of these things have happened in my classroom at one time or another. However, not getting to lesson closure is like not watching the last ten minutes of your favorite show or worse yet, not watching the season finale of that series! It leaves you with a rather unsettled, incomplete, frustrated, or even confused feeling. Sure, you can go about your day, but you are left with the lingering question of “What happened?” or in the case of your math lesson, “What did I learn?”
Hopefully, you are now wondering what you can do to flip the script on that. How can I get myself and my students to the season finale, the lesson closure? I have found more often than not, skipping closure is not due to a lack of great ideas but rather the lack of time and opportunity. So, below are some suggestions and words of advice for making closure a regular routine for your students. Take what you need, and leave the rest.
- Use formative assessment to help you make closure decisions. As you are circulating and listening to students, formatively assessing based on your pocket questions or their team conversations, determine if they have met the lesson goal. Do they have enough information? Have they explored enough to be able to reflect on the goal? If so, guess what? It is totally okay if they did not finish all of the core problems you had planned!
- Have a couple of go-to closures. Reciprocal Teaching was one of my favorite Study Team and Teaching Strategies for quick go-to closure, in addition to a Think-Pair-Share within the team or a class discussion about the lesson’s goals –“What do you want to remember? What do you still have questions on?”
- Use timers. Use timers to help pace students through the lesson’s problems. It is okay to let students know that they met the goal without finishing, or that another problem is now more important.
- Involve students. Sometimes having the lesson agenda projected on the board is enough because it lets students know what the lesson goals are and which problems will help them accomplish that. I think we all appreciate having an agenda when we walk into a meeting. My students would always ask me, “What about ___ on the board?” and that either helped me get to the things I had planned or helped me talk with students about why I might be changing the plan.
- Set an alarm for the last __ minutes of class. For me, I set an alarm that went off when there were seven minutes left of every class. When this alarm went off, students heard it, too. They knew it was time to wrap up their conversation in preparation for a closure activity of some sort. If you can do this, then try the lesson closure that is suggested in your Teacher Notes or one of your go-to lesson closures.
- Assign the responsibility to a student. Ask one or two of your students to watch the clock and let you know when the time is ___ and to remind you to do closure.
- Assign closure to a team. At the beginning of a week, let each team know what lesson closure they are responsible for that week. It can be their responsibility to create an exit ticket, share what they learned and what they are still wondering about, or something else creative. You can touch base with them and ask what support they may need, but closure is their responsibility that day. Talk about sharing the math authority!
- Require students to be seated when the bell rings. One of the classroom expectations I stole from a colleague after seeing it in action – ALL students needed to be in their seat before I would dismiss the class. So when I am really pressed for time and the bell is about to ring, or just rang, I ask students for a “Fist to Five” check on the lesson goal or tell them to Turn and Talk and finish at least one of the following sentences: “Something I learned today…” “Something I’m still confused on…”. Or I ask for two or three volunteers to share something important from the day’s lesson.
Closure is a challenge, but as we say all the time in the land of CPM… mastery takes time, effort, and support. So give yourself time, be sure to keep putting in the effort, and hopefully, some of these ideas might be the support you were needing. Whether you are binge-watching a new math course or re-watching an old favorite, commit to the finale. If you fall asleep and miss it, try again tomorrow. You might not be where you want to be with lesson closure yet, but you can do it. If you are looking for more support, you can always reach out to the Professional Learning Team, or even me personally. If you are ever not sure who to contact, email your Regional Professional Learning Coordinator. We will get your question to someone who can help. We always have recommendations for a new series you might like.