By Christina Douglas

Teachers spend hours developing lesson plans.  We are constantly trying to find interesting and creative ways to engage our students in the material as we know that gaining their interest is an essential step in the learning process.  One way to engage students is the use of a “hook” activity at the beginning of the lesson.  Teachers give a great deal of focus to this introductory activity and with good reason as we know that if you don’t have the students attention at the beginning of a lesson, chances are pretty small that it will be gained later on.  While we devote this attention to the start of the lesson, this focus is rarely mirrored during the wrap-up. 

Most teachers will admit that the majority of their lessons wrap-up in one of three ways:

  • the remainder of the assignment/material being assigned as homework,
  • the teacher wrapping up the lesson quickly because the class/day has come to an end or,
  • the teacher asking ‘are there any questions?’ (to which the answer is usually silence).

A substantial amount of research shows that providing students an opportunity to reflect and debrief information at the end of a lesson is extremely important.  “Reflection improves basic academic skills and promotes a deeper understanding of course subject matter and its relations to the non-academic world; it improves higher level thinking and problem solving, and students’ ability to learn from experience.” (Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center).

The concluding activity should leave the students on a “high” similar to the introductory activity. It is meant to help the student realize how much learning has taken place, find a way to for each student to organize this new information and leave the entire class feeling positive and energized about the lesson.  Without this crucial step, students will have a much more difficult time remembering and applying the information they have just learned.

While it is easy to explain the reasons why we should have a “wrap-up” or “debriefing” activity, it is often more difficult to think of interesting ways of implementing it.  A list of debriefing activities has been included below, divided into 4 categories:  individual writing, individual thinking, group writing, group speaking.

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Individual Writing Wrap-Up:

  • The 1 minute picture/sentence. Put one minute on the timer and ask students to write (or draw) the most important thing they learned, the biggest question they still have, etc..
  • The next class:  have the student write a letter to themselves about what they want to focus on in the next class/week/course, etc.  The teacher should then collect and distribute the letters at the appropriate time.
  • Shape shifting: ask students to draw a shape on a piece of paper (any shape of their choosing). The students should then try to fill the shape with as much information as they can about the new topic.

Individual Thinking Wrap-Up:

  • Ten fingers: ask each student to see if they can remember 10 points about the information they have just learned (relating an idea to a specific finger will help with recall at a later time)
  • Alphabet: have students try to relate a few words from the lesson to each letter of the alphabet.
  • Do-over: Create a small object with the words ‘Do Over’ on it. Allow each student the opportunity to think about something they would have done differently if they had the day/class over again.  This can help students feel better about the class as a whole and therefore be more prepared to come back the next day. Students can be invited to share their ideas once group trust has been established.

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Group Writing Wrap-Up:

  • Mindmap: have students draw a mind map of the information they learned in that class.   Students can learn how to do this at a very young age and should be encouraged to use pictures to represent things they can not write/spell.
  • Index cards. Give each pair of students an index card. Ask them to write out everything they can remember about the day’s content.
  • Stop light: give each pair of students a picture of a stop light. In the green box, they write something they already knew about today’s topic. In yellow, they write something they learned today and in red, they write something they didn’t understand about what was discussed.

Group speaking Wrap-Up:

  • The beachball (write questions on the ball and toss it around. Whoever catches the ball must answer one of the questions on the ball. Questions can be about the content or about the day as a whole.
  • Create a story using the lesson content. Each student adds one sentence to the story.
  • Question technique.  Each person creates one question about the content. They ask their partner.  Round two would involve matching two pairs and letting them answer one question each.  This could be continued, making the group larger and larger, depending on how much time is left.

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Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center (2006, August). Importance of Reflection, Northern Illinois University, Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center. December 18, 2007

Gross Davis, Barbara. 1983. A Berkeley Compendium of Suggestions for Teaching with Excellence. Office of Educational Development, Division of Undergraduate Education, Berkeley University of California.  December 16, 2007.

M. Meier & T. Panitz. (2006, Fall). End on a High Note: Better Endings for Classes and Courses. LET THE ADVENTURE BEGIN.  December 4, 2007.

Student Affairs. (2005, May). Importance of Reflection. Ohio State University. December 4, 2007.