Who among ESL teachers does not understand the purpose behind a warm up activity? We all agree that it’s important to get students focused, to introduce a task or topic, to break the ice, or simply place your students in “English mode”.
But what about cool downs?
Many teachers are not aware of the importance of a cool down. And what is exactly this importance?
Many teachers just play a game or let students work on an activity till the bell rings. When you do this you neglect to give your students closure on what they have learned for the day. You’re not capitalizing on your unique opportunity to effectively wrap things up in a way that will benefit your students’ learning.
The warm up and the cool down are like the introduction and the conclusion of an essay.
An essay with no conclusion has a very abrupt ending. If you just let students work on an activity till it’s time to go home, you are not only giving them a sudden and abrupt ending to the lesson, you may also come across as disorganized and improvised. The cool down, however, clearly shows students that this is the way you planned for the lesson to end and that you’re ending it like this for a reason. The cool down has its own purpose.
7 effective ways to end a lesson – because those last minutes matter!
What have you learned today?
It goes without saying that you should never end a lesson by introducing something new, just to leave your students hanging till the next class. The best way to end a lesson is to give students some kind of review activity, so that they may see the progress they've made in just one lesson. One of the most common and easiest to implement is simply taking the last 5 minutes of class to ask your students, “What have you learned today?” Notice, here, that you’renot the one telling them what they’ve learned. They may give you a list of new words, or say they learned to speak about what they did in the past or what they will do in the future, etc... Students may pick up something they missed earlier. Also, it's important to speak in functional ways, for example not say they learned to use the “simple present” but rather that they learned to speak about their habits, schedules, and everyday activities.
Performance correction and feedback
Right before the last 5 minutes of class you can have some sort of performance activity, for instance a role play. Usually we don’t correct students during the role play so we don’t interrupt the flow, but when they’re done you can end the class with corrections of words or expressions they used incorrectly; things they forgot to say, etc…and your students will go home with these corrections fresh on their minds. Students may also give their opinion or feedback on their classmates’ performance.
Choose a few students and give each 60 seconds to speak about something you’ve covered that day: what they did yesterday if you worked on simple past; talk about Halloween, professions, or animals; older learners may even give a “how to” lesson; they may also summarize a story they heard, or place themselves in another person’s shoes, like a celebrity, profession, or even animal. But they must speak for a full minute. 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.
Write an email
Ask students to imagine they have to write an email to a friend or family member and tell them what they did today in their ESL class. Students have a chance to summarize what they’ve learned in written form. This writing activity may be tailored to any topic. If you talked about farm animals, ask students to write about their favorite animal and why it’s their favorite. And the same goes for foods, sports, celebrities. Adult learners may write a business email with the new vocabulary they’ve learned.
For very young ESL learners the best way to wrap up a lesson is with a goodbye song or saying goodbye to a puppet. The puppet may “ask” them questions about something they learned, and even give them a short “review” by asking, “What’s this?” or “What’s that?” or any other question or expression they may have learned. You may set aside this special time with the puppet every day at the end of the class, so children know what to expect, and even though they may be very young, they will still have this sense of closure.
After a special holiday class, or right after a lesson packed with arts and crafts, ask students to help you tidy up the classroom. Make sure you factor in this tidy up time when you plan crafts. Letting students run off with their art work just to leave you in a classroom littered with papers and art supplies gives them the wrong message.
Sharing with the class
Another great way to end your class is by asking your students to share whatever it is that you worked on that day: a fall collage; a painting; they may read something they’ve written. The important thing here is to give them a space to share something they've produced with the language elements they've learned. Even adult learners may read a letter or email they’ve written.
You can do anything you want to wrap up your lesson and be as creative as you want to be.
However, it is essential that you provide these three things:
a time for students to cool down after an activity-filled class
some sort of review of what they’ve learned
the proper closure to the day’s tasks
Keep these three essential points in mind, and you’ll come up with great, effective ways to end your lessons every time!
Claudia has been an ESL teacher for 20 years and has taught a wide variety of students from pre-schoolers to senior citizens, complete beginners to advanced students. This vast teaching experience has helped her write over 100 articles for BusyTeacher.org. When she is not teaching, she is also a freelance travel writer contributing reviews for V!VA Travel Guides' upcoming Uruguay edition, as well as travel articles and blog posts for a variety of online publications. She is currently living in Buenos Aires, Argentina with her spunky 7-year old daughter and crabby 10-year old cat, Ulysses. Google +.
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