Ending lessons and Plenaries

Much learning is also undertaken at the end of lessons. In order to maximise this there are a number of tactics which can support you to make the time more organised and productive.

  • End early. Don’t try to cover too much material in one hit. Don’t mistake pace for manic activity. Leave at least eight minutes to finish off the lesson properly.
  • Use a structured plenary to end the session. This should be a group or individual reflection on what has been learned.
  • Ask the pupils to identify two or three key points they have learned from the lesson. These can be shared in small groups either written or as drawings and cartoons.
  •  A review of these points could become a regular feature of a homework routine.
  • Summarise the learning.
  • Set the scene for the following lesson.
  • Have clear routines for an organised departure. Don’t fall into the trap of not clearing away equipment and resources in good time.
  • Make sure that pupils put on their coats as a last task before leaving the room.
  • Vary the way in which the pupils are dismissed, for example, row-by-row, small groups, alphabetically, one by one after answering a question. This will help keep the lesson focus right until the end.


Planning plenary activities

  • Generic and specific. The big challenge is to make these as varied as possible.
  • The purposes of the plenary is to: draw together what has been learned, to highlight the most important rather than the most recent points, to summarise key facts, ideas and vocabulary, and stress what needs to be remembered; generalise from examples generated earlier in the lesson.
  • Go through an exercise, question pupils and rectify any misunderstandings.
  • Make links to other work and what the class will do next.
  • Highlight not only the progress that has been made and remind them about personal targets
  • Set homework to extend or consolidate classwork and prepare for future lessons.

Improving endings 15 minutes

  • Choose a class you are confident to work with.
  • Keep in mind the tactics mentioned above, plan a lesson ending to include a plenary activity.
  • At the beginning of the lesson explain to the class what you have planned for the plenary and why. This will help them to prepare.
  • Review how the lesson ending went, then plan to incorporate more into future lessons

Key Stage 3 National Strategy l Strengthening teaching and learning using different pedagogies © Crown copyright 2004

Unit 3: Improving the learning climate DfES 0699-2004 G

A Lee

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Tools: Lollipop Sticks – Random Questions

Lollipop Sticks

What are they?

Lollipop sticks are simple: small cards, with every student’s name written upon them, used to nominate students.

Some commentators are not keen!




Ways to use them


This can be used as process or as individual techniques..

Students prepare an answer to an open question. 

Lots of ways to do this.

write ideas on mini-whiteboards

talk to partners

jot down notes

The teacher can use this time to circulate and look at what students are writing offering help as needed


Questions, directed using lollipop sticks. 

Pose a question, pause, and choose a student at random. It is useful to allow a pause and to be ready to use no-opt out

(When a student says they can’t answer a question bounce the question to another child then return to the child and ask them to repeat the correct answer.)


Follow-up questions. 

This is the key to differentiation and challenge.  

  • elaboration (But what would the implications have been?)
  • evidence (Can you give me an example ..)
  • reformulation (1) (Try again, giving the point first, then the supporting evidence).
  • reformulation (2) (That evidence doesn’t prove the case – what else would?)
  • responses to contradictory information (Why might …?)
  • links (Which other …?  What did he do?)


Questions bounced to other students. 

Again, using lollipop sticks to nominate:

  • Do you agree
  • Why might someone disagree?
  • How could you improve that answer?



  • They are democratising…  every student in the class has an equal part to play.
  • They help me balance access and challenge…  It forces the teacher to ask a question to which every student can respond while inviting high level responses
  • They discourage passengers… 
  • They raise expectation I force myself to expect everyone to be able to answer constructively, thoughtfully and with evidence at any time.  


“Stop picking on people”

Removing choice over participation radically changes the classroom contract.  It’s universally unpopular: students who consider themselves weak don’t want this publicised; those who consider themselves smart are frustrated they can no longer dominate discussions and that time is being wasted on students who don’t know the answers.

Without lollipop sticks (or something similar), only a few students will consistently participate.  Of the others, some will be listening; some will have great ideas but keep quiet, not realising; some will tune out.  Everyone can offer something to discussions, but a little force is needed to demonstrate this.  Ensuring all students are listening and responding sends a critical message that everyone should be participating in learning.


What about differentiation?

Many would argue that lollipop sticks need not be used to enforce participation.  David Didau has written: “I’m not a fan of randomisers; the power to select who answers our questions should be treasured.”

All questions should be sufficiently clear and challenging that everyone benefits.  I can then differentiate in follow-up questions, as I’ve described above.

Selecting students for our ‘targeted’ questions can, I believe, embed low expectations: I’ll ask X that, because he’ll get it right; I’ll save the hard question for Y.  ‘Weak’ students never cease to surprise me with brilliant answers to hard questions, because they get the chance to answer.  Equally, asking ‘simpler’ questions to ‘smarter’ students offers the chance to hear good answers modelled or, on occasion, highlights surprising gaps in their knowledge.

But what if some students don’t understand the question?

Why would a teacher ask a question they do not expect students to understand?

It takes time to make them.

About half an hour at the beginning of the year.



In my view they are great tool to support learning 


This was adapted/plagiarised from a hand out at a training I attended.