Endings that Don’t Suck

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Slice Daily for the Entire Month of March

March Slice of Life Challenge

As a reader and writer, I realize the importance of grabbing my reader as well as of crafting a thought provoking ending that leaves my reader thinking; however, as a teacher I easily craft a lead and build engagement, but my endings are like poorly written stories with fizzling endings or like common stories ending abruptly with trite lines,

“Oh, look at the time. Y’all better hurry up and go to your lockers.”

or

“I’ll see y’all tomorrow-make sure to remember it’s a BYOD day”

or

“Don’t forget to finish what you didn’t get done.”

or

“Help me out, and get a piece of trash off the floor before you go out the door.”

I have always struggled with taking the time to end the class.  Today a visitor (the usual suspect) entered my class for one of those drive by walk-throughs with minutes left in the class. I looked at the clock and smiled in my principal’s direction knowing that I had to make a decision with those few minutes I had left. I would either finish supporting the small group of kids with whom I was working, or I would send them back and close the lesson. Not wanting to put on a show and not wanting to send away struggling students, I opted to finish offering the support. However, had I timed my lesson better and paid attention to the clock, I would not have had to make that choice.

I am thankful for the constructive feedback I received today because actually being a better closer has been on my mind lately.  When having a casual conversation about the walk through, my principal said several positive things then, mentioned the “one” thing (you know, the one I focus on the most). I started to fall back into my typical MO,  “Well, those kids came to me and needed help, and I was working with them, and time–okay, nevermind, the excuse…” Thankfully I caught myself, and the conversation resumed.

A few years ago, I wanted to get better at closings, so I did a bit of research and found this great document online that I modified and turned into a ppt full of the closings I liked from the document: https://edc448uri.wikispaces.com/file/view/40_ways_to_leave_a_lesson.pdf. I was excited about my closings and got better for awhile.

At the beginning of this school year, I set alarms: one on my Fitbit, the other on my iPhone–to shock me and call me into my closings. I shake my arm and tap the Fitbit and resume instruction. I tap the iPhone if I have the volume loud enough, and then, I promptly forget why the alarm sounded (I do this also when the alarm sounds for me to go home).

Reflecting on this, I think on those days I am stuck in a moment, so are my students, and the dots I’ve worked so hard to connect have a critical disconnect; in fact, I guess they fall just a bit short of putting the final picture together. The puzzle isn’t quite built, and perhaps by the next day a piece or two might be lost.

Last month I read an Edutopia article about opening and closings of lessons,  “The Eight Minutes that Matter Most.” This article made me rethink my closings (once again) and reminded me that I need to bookend my lesson more effectively. In this article, AP lit teacher Brian Sztabnik writes, That is the crux of lesson planning right there — endings and beginnings. If we fail to engage students at the start, we may never get them back. If we don’t know the end result, we risk moving haphazardly from one activity to the next. Every moment in a lesson plan should tell.

The eight minutes that matter most are the beginning and endings. If a lesson does not start off strong by activating prior knowledge, creating anticipation, or establishing goals, student interest wanes, and you have to do some heavy lifting to get them back. If it fails to check for understanding, you will never know if the lesson’s goal was attained.”   

I read the article. I pedagogically pondered and thought about how I should really work on my closings, yet until outside eyes looked in on my room again, I didn’t stop and ask myself, “What can I do differently?”

Now I ask you, what works for you?   How do you prioritize your 8 minutes of beginnings and closings? How do you make sure you get to the crux of your lesson? How do you connect the dots at the end, the ones that create the big picture?  When kids are being productive, when time flies, when kids need to get more done, or when kids are getting help from you, how do you force yourself to STOP and make time for the closing?

Most days my endings are planned and purposeful on paper, yet often I fall just short of creating the complete picture. While I can check for understanding the next day, I often neglect one of the most important teachable moments.  I’d like to learn to PRIORITIZE my closings. My OLW (one little word to live by) for the year is prioritize, and I’d like to avoid endings that end like a bad story,

“And that’s my slice of life about bad closings. THE END.”

I cringe writing that. Maybe I should cringe teaching that, too.

After all, what I really want to master is creating

Endings that Don’t Suck.

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9 thoughts on “Endings that Don’t Suck

  1. I don’t really have words of wisdom on closings. It’s a weakness for me. I’m often guilty of running straight through to the very end of our learning time and then rushing students on to the next class or out the door. I know in my head and heart that I need to bring them back together and process our learning of the day. There’s just so much learning to do. I do like using “exit tickets” where they kids have to reflect and respond in some way to the goal of the lesson…I just don’t always leave enough time. Thank you for your post. I want to go back and check out some of your links.

    Thank you!

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  2. I enjoyed reading your post. I don’t have any advice for you being that I am in elementary and while my lessons certainly have a closing, the timing for such is a bit more flexible. I think it’s great that you want to improve yourself professional and are actively seeking resources to make your the end of your lessons more meaningful.

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  3. I really enjoyed reading your post and especially the ending! Your reflection as a teacher is so evident and I love how you included evidence in your blog for things you were working on. I too have learned so much from Brian Sztanik, it is great to see how great ideas spread! Reflective teaching is perhaps the most important quality for a teacher to be successful. As long as you are always reflective about your endings, then I say that is more important than mastery. Mastery suggests there is an end to growth, I am not sure there is a set end as we are always growing and learning.

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  4. Setting the timer on your fitbit and your phone …. brilliant! Too bad I would press the button and keep going. 🙂 I keep rereading the excerpt in the slice – I also need to get better at closing, but I think we might need to get help from the kids. Maybe there’s a tagline we ask at the end of the lesson and get feedback? Something to definitely think about.

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