Never underestimate the power of a lesson ending: this is your lasting impression. A disorderly departure will leave students with a chaotic image of your teaching: no matter how good the lesson was, the last bit will be etched upon their memory. It’s like a good book – if the ending’s disappointing, you feel cheated that you invested so much time in reading the rest.
Here are my top tips to ensure a powerful ending to your lesson:
- Always finish a lesson early A lesson which ends on the bell is ill-timed. Start packing away five minutes earlier and use the time constuctively to talk to students rather than shouting over their heads as they bundle out of the room.
- Silence is golden A quiet finish shows you’re in charge right up until the bell. Getting students to stand silently behind chairs and letting them go row by row allows you to reward students who have worked well that lesson: “Jimmy’s table may go first because you impressed me so much with your oral feedback in today’s lesson.” Jimmy’s table leave knowing that they’ve done well and the other students hanker after being first to leave next time. It also allows you to make time for discussion, whether that's to chat with certain individuals about a discpline issue or a misdemeanour, or for students to ask questions.
- Calm lesson endings are professional and kind to others We all know that students are directly affected by their previous lesson; if a student has come straight from drama or PE they’re likely to be full of beans. If you dismiss students calmly, they will walk through the corridors to their next lesson in a much more mature and composed manner.
- Use the time to recap what has been learned and to look forward to the next lesson A planned lesson ending enables students to see your lessons as a process or a journey. The silence at the end allows you to recap the homework or to have an additional plenary. I often deliver a quick quiz based on the lesson or play hangman (using key terminology), which is seen by students as a treat.
- Never leave the room before the students You may have another lesson over on the other side of the school but it’s essential to continue forging positive relationships right up until the last student leaves. A student may stay back and ask for clarification of an idea or may wish to tell you something in connection with the lesson. Use this opportunity to stand by the door, praising individuals for their efforts and to reflect on the progress made by students and gauge the success of your lesson plan.
Julie Stagg is an English teacher at Thomas Adams School is in Wem, Shropshire