Amazing Opening and Closing Activities That Students Won’t Want to Miss
The beginning and end of a class are crucial moments. They provide opportunities to engage students and ensure that learning sticks. But class openers and closers can also be super fun! Here are 15 student-friendly, impactful, and entertaining ways to open and close any class.
A great way to get kids to arrive on time is with a little healthy, brain-building competition. Students can compete in groups or as individuals, working to solve a riddle that relates to the day’s learning. Include a small prize or simply celebrate the winning student(s). Check out EdGalaxy’s handy list of classroom-friendly riddles and get going!
When students arrive to class, give them a secret fact-finding mission. Hide a lesson artifact (or several!) around the classroom and offer clues to find it. Whoever finds the object can be your helper for the lesson or can get a little extra credit.
Build a daily writing practice through visual, do-now writing prompts. Encourage free writing by piquing student interest in topics that relate to your day’s lesson or that stand alone. Here’s a list of visual prompts to get you started. Also, TeachStarter has a cool web-based tool that randomly provides an image to get students thinking and writing. Set a timer and some parameters and stick to a consistent practice.
Create a spinning wheel with a variety of review questions, discussion prompts, topics, or assignments on it. You can have students spin the wheel to answer questions or use the wheel to choose the day’s activities. Don’t have a wheel? No problem! Use this online tool to customize your choices and spin randomly.
A cheap beach ball can be a fun discussion or review tool. Write questions or discussion starters on the ball using dry erase marker so you can reuse it. Toss the boss around and then call out a color. The student holding the ball must answer the question written on the section of the beach ball that is your chosen color and the question closest to their hands. Make it even more fun by playing music and encouraging students to keep the ball moving until the music stops.
Get students ready to learn and focus with some online game time. A short game at the beginning of class can be used to review previous material or assess prior knowledge for a new topic using online tools like Kahoot or Brain Pop.
Knowing how to summarize your thoughts in a concise and thoughtful manner is a true 21st-century skill. At the end of class, ask students to sum up the day’s learning in a 30- to 60-second elevator pitch. Make sure to include the context and importance of the day’s learning and how it may fit into the larger scope of the class’ learning.
Cool down from the intensity of class and ask students to draw a few concepts taught in the day’s lesson. Ask them to draw a summary of the lesson for someone who didn’t participate in the learning that day. Have more time? Try it Pictionary-style and get kids trying to guess what lesson concept their classmates are drawing.
This is a fun way to get students reflective about the day’s learning while getting amped up for where you might be guiding them tomorrow. Ask students to predict tomorrow’s lesson either in writing or verbally in a closing discussion. Another idea is for students to use sticky notes to add their guesses to a prediction board. The next day, see who was right in order to help students understand how learning flows and connects from one day to the next.
Have students stand up and schmooze! Play some music and have students walk around until you stop it. When you press pause, whoever they’re standing next to is their new “friend” at a party. They should briefly explain what they learned in class that day to the “stranger.” You can even offer conversation starters like: “Did you know?” or “I just found out that…” When the music starts up again, they should move on and “meet” someone else. Deepen the experience by providing a different prompt each round.
The National Association of Elementary School Principals shares this fun method for getting kids to summarize and explain their learning at the end of class. “This can be done individually, with a partner, or in small groups. Students get a sealed envelope that contains a slip of paper with a topic, vocabulary word, or problem written on it. Students then have to explain, describe, or solve the contents of the envelope.”
A quick way to encourage participation from all students and gauge understanding of the day’s topics is the Whip Around. “To implement this wraparound strategy, you pose a question or prompt to the class and then have each student share aloud their quick response,” according to Facing History’s Teaching Strategies Library. “This strategy provides an efficient way for all students in a classroom to share their ideas about a question, topic, or text, revealing common themes and ideas in students’ thinking. Wraparound activities can also be provocative discussion starters.”
Working with older kids? Encourage responsible use of social media and concise summations of learning by asking students to discuss their class topics in a daily tweet. Use a predetermined class hashtag and encourage students to tag sources and experts to build a learning network.
Make learning come full circle — literally — by engaging in end-of-class circle talks. In a reflection circle, “the teacher cues students to reflect on their learning for the day or to set goals for the next day. This can be as simple as going around the circle to answer an open-ended question such as, “What’s one thing you want to work on tomorrow?” It might also be an activity that involves reflective thinking,” according to The Responsive Classroom, which shares great ideas on end-of-class circle practices.
A simple yet effective closing activity is the quick review. Encourage students to share their own review of the day either with each other or together as a class. “Choose a few students and give each 60 seconds to speak about something you’ve covered that day….older learners may even give a “how to” lesson; they may also summarize a story they heard,” shares The Busy Teacher. “To motivate students to speak, you may choose to reward the student who says the most, or includes the most information, with a reward sticker.”
Jennifer L.M. Gunn spent 10 years in newspaper and magazine publishing before moving to public education. She is a curriculum designer, a teaching coach, and high school educator in New York City. She is also co-founder of the annual EDxEDNYC Education Conference for teacher-led innovation and regularly presents at conferences on the topics of adolescent literacy, leadership, and education innovation.