We share student-centric strategies for making the last 5 minutes of class count. While I cannot be the only one who cringes at the thought of allowing my students “free time,” I equally despise distributing busywork. That said, we’ve all run into unplanned time at the end of a class — delivering d

Feb 02, 2016

We share student-centric strategies for making the last 5 minutes of class count.

While I cannot be the only one who cringes at the thought of allowing my students “free time,” I equally despise distributing busywork. That said, we’ve all run into unplanned time at the end of a class — delivering dynamite lessons only to glance at the clock and recoil at the realization that there are a whole five or 10 minutes left before dismissal.

Teachers face the frustrating paradox of never having enough time in the day to accomplish all that needs doing and coming face-to-face with these pockets of unplanned time. Not to fear! We’ve got your closure game plan. Here are our top tips for maximizing those sneaky last minutes.


Get creative with your exit slips. There’s a ton of ways to ensure exit tickets are anything but boring. Give these a spin:

    • Have students fill in fun-but-relevant sentence stems (“I’m going to post on Facebook all about ___________ and how he was the most significant Civil War leader because ___________” or “If I was casting a modern movie of To Kill a Mockingbird, I’d cast ___________ as Atticus because ___________”). Have students read their responses aloud with a partner so that they are both writing and speaking their ideas.

    • Like to use sticky notes for exit slips? Create a colored “stoplight” (or just draw large red, yellow and green circles on your whiteboard) and have students tell you what they learned or a question they have before sticking their Post It to the color that represents how they’d rate their own knowledge.

    • Produce a “snowstorm” of responses. Students answer a question or write down what they learned in class, wad it up into a ball and throw it into the air. Then, each learner grabs a nearby response and reads it aloud.


Get them moving. Try playing a quick game of Reviewsical Chairs. I have to confess, this one’s stolen from another teacher — education has taught me how to be a ruthless thief (plus I’m a sucker for kinesthetic activities). Remove one chair or desk from a full classroom, and have students walk around until you click off the tunes (try using a Pandora or Spotify playlist). The last student standing challenges a classmate for his or her chair. Then you (you fun, spontaneous teacher, you) ask a review question from the content, and the first student to answer wins the chair. Don’t eliminate anyone, just start round two.


Include the parents. If you’ve got a particularly thought-provoking question for discussion, consider posing it to the class and giving them time to discuss it with a partner or journal their thoughts — but don’t answer it. Email the answer (or conversation points) to parents so that the topic can be discussed over dinner or on their way to basketball practice.


Set up a gallery walk. Students draw what they learned — captions optional. Have them leave their representations at their desk next to a sheet of notebook paper for “audience notes.” While learners walk around, instruct them to write comments on the paper that elaborate on the ideas or prompt further questions.


Simplify, simplify. Use the final moments to have students orally “teach” content as if they were talking to a younger student (kindergarteners could teach preschoolers, seniors could teach freshmen). Give them specific topics or points they need to discuss.


Turn the tables. Instead of posing a question, give students an answer and have them come up with a question that could lead to it. This can work for any subject, but works best, of course, when there is more than one question that requires your answer.


Get your tech on. The Internet and web apps are powerful tools when it comes to closure. Check these out:

    • A favorite for older kids is Poll Everywhere. One of the site’s cool tricks allows you to create a free-response poll to a prompt you give the class. Students nvarchar(max) in the answer (or use the webpage), and their responses are posted to the site, which you project on your whiteboard or SmartBoard. This blog does a fantastic job explaining this easy, engaging exercise.

    • Create a classroom Twitter page and have students summarize their learning in a Tweet.

    • Set up a classroom Instagram account and have students pose for a picture that demonstrates the key learning of their day. Collaborate to create the caption, and see how many likes you can stir up.

    • Using an online comic creating platform, have students design quick comics illustrating their ah-ha moments of the lesson. Need a comic creator? Look over here for a list.

The last minutes of class can be so much more than tying up loose ends or keeping your zoo in containment until the bell. Let’s use that final countdown to pack a punch and leave an impression.

Heather Sparks is a writer, educator, and mom of two. An Arizona native, she holds a bachelor’s degree in secondary education and a master’s degree in gifted education from Arizona State University.

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