Teacher Resources‎ > ‎Teacher Talk‎ > ‎

Beginning and Ending Lessons Effectively

posted Feb 13, 2015, 6:29 PM by HSD Principal

    In this Edutopia article, English teacher Brian Sztabnik says that lesson planning should follow the time-honored maxims of good writing: start with the end in mind, plan effective beginnings and endings, and grab students’ attention. “That is the crux of lesson planning right there,” he says, “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.” Sztabnik suggests four key elements for lesson launches and four for wrapping up (the full article has numerous links):

Lesson beginnings:

Use video clips. Well-chosen YouTube nuggets are a great way to create an anticipatory set. For example, Sztabnik asked students to draw comparisons between Carl Sandburg’s poem "Chicago” and the Chrysler Super Bowl commercial featuring Eminem.

Start with good news. “If you want to create a safe space for students to take risks, you won’t get there with a pry bar,” says Sztabnik. One alternative is spending the first two minutes of class having students share positive thoughts.

Forge links to other subject areas. “Integrating other disciplines teaches students that ideas and concepts do not stand alone but rather exist within a wider web of knowledge,” he says. For example, have math students measure the angles of a Picasso painting, play a song that makes a classical allusion in a unit on mythology, or toss a football around the class before teaching the physics of a quarterback’s spiral.

Write for five. Students need to write a lot if they are to improve and build stamina – five times more than the teacher can grade, says Sztabnik. One idea is to have students spend the first five minutes of class writing in response to an essential question.

Lesson endings:

Level up. Emulate this compelling feature of video games by having students chart their own progress toward mastery of standards, perhaps challenging them to move from Beginner to Heroic to Legendary to Mythic.

Use exit tickets. These can provide on-the-spot assessment information, ask students to analyze their own performance, give the teacher feedback on the lesson, and provide a channel for communication. “However they are used,” says Sztabnik, “they provide quick and comprehensive bits of data and feedback.”

Harness social media. Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram can be used in positive ways in the classroom, especially for wrapping up lessons – for example, challenging students to compose a tweet or find an image that best captures what they just learned.

Make peer learning visible. Sztabnik suggests that a few minutes before the closing bell, students should write one thing they learned from someone else in the class on a sticky note and put it on the board – then start the next lesson by reading the notes aloud.

“The 8 Minutes That Matter Most” by Brian Sztabnik in Edutopia, January 5, 2015,


Excerpt taken from Marshall Memo 57, February 2, 2015