Stallion Gazette

Celebrating Excellence

Making the Most of our Time

Making Good Use of the Final Minutes of a Class


In this Chronicle of Higher Education article, James Lang suggests using a mixture of these closing techniques over time:


The minute paper – The teacher wraps up the formal class a few minutes early and asks students to respond in writing to two questions:

- What was the most important thing you learned today?

- What question still remains in your mind?

The first question gets students thinking about the whole class, making a judgment about something important to them, and articulating it in their own words. The second question asks them to consider what they haven’t understood. “Most of us are infected by what learning theorists call ‘illusions of fluency,’” says Lang, “which means that we believe we have obtained mastery of something when we have not.” To answer the second question, students must dig for any confusion or weakness that remains in their own comprehension of the day’s material. Collecting students’ responses (on paper or in electronic messages) gives instructors valuable information on how well the class went and, if things were unclear for a majority of students, a starting point for the next class. Even if the answers aren’t collected, Lang believes that students benefit from retrieving information about the class from memory and clarifying points of confusion and uncertainty.

Closing connections – The instructor finishes class five minutes early and tells students they can close as soon as they have identified five ways the day’s material appears in contexts outside the classroom – current events, personal experiences, popular songs, debates in the school or college, and so forth. “You’ll be amazed at how quickly they can come up with examples,” says Lang. These might be handed in, jotted on the board, or posted on the course website.

The metacognitive five – “We have evidence that students engage in poor study strategies,” says Lang. “Likewise, research shows that most people are plagued by illusions of fluency. The solution on both fronts is better metacognition – that is, a clearer understanding of our own learning.” Once a semester, Lang has his students jot down how they studied for a test they’ve just taken. He follows up by comparing test results with study methods: invariably, effective approaches (like self-testing and flashcards) correlate with higher scores, while less-effective methods (like reviewing notes and re-reading material) correlate with lower scores. “Imagine what a difference we could make,” says Lang, “if we all took five minutes – even just a few times during the semester – to offer students the opportunity to reflect on their learning habits.”

Closing the loop – If the class began with questions, put them back up on the screen at the end and have students use what they just learned to answer them. If the class began with a question about students’ prior knowledge on the topic, end by asking students to explain how the class confirmed, enhanced, or contradicted what they knew before.

“We have such a limited amount of time with students,” Lang concludes, “– Within that narrow window, five minutes well-spent at the end of class can make a difference.”



“Small Changes in Teaching the Last 5 Minutes of Class” by James Lang in The Chronicle of Higher Education, April 1, 2016 (Vol. LXII, #29, p. A36-37), http://bit.ly/1qoNCLt; Lang’s book on this subject is Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning (Jossey-Bass, 2016); Lang can be reached at lang@assumption.edu.

Excellence in Photos

*****Spotlight: Stallion Community Advocates*****

The 6th graders at Sanger showed up in numbers for a recent community meeting. One student, Genesis Rios, was the first among ANY community member to arrive. Our goal for this inaugural class was for them to take the reigns of leadership and set an example for their younger peers, and they are doing just that. A big THANK YOU to every student and staff member that showed up to show your support at ANY community meeting or special community event.

Alex Sanger Elementary/Preparatory

Alex Sanger Elementary School is a place of learning for students, staff, parents, and community members. Located in the beautiful Forest Hills neighborhood of East Dallas, it provides a safe environment where academic excellence is the focus.