Moving Forward: Teaching in Uncertain Times

Community Blog on online, hybrid, and F2F teaching during the pandemic

The Last Five Minutes of Class: Strategies for Student Learning

By Melissa McLeod, Ph.D. (Department of English)

In August, Ashley Holmes posted on engaging students during the first five minutes of class through James Lang’s “small teaching” techniques. I’ve been experimenting with using small teaching during the last five minutes of class to reinforce student learning. I regularly teach a difficult class in the English department, Practical Grammar, which students often compare to math: “This is like math for English!”

diagram of a sentence that says See beauty in the language.Students diagram sentences to understand how words and grammatical structures function together to create meaning. Shifting “small teaching” practices that I might normally use in the first to the last five minutes of class gives students the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of the class material, reinforcing their comprehension in preparation for the next lesson. Below are a couple of activities to consider moving to the last five minutes.


Like many instructors, I give students quizzes to assess learning progression (some on iCollege and some in-person now that I’m teaching f2f). Often, I give these quizzes at the beginning of class to measure reading comprehension. But, because this is challenging material, I’ve started waiting until the end of class to administer some quizzes. Lectures, discussions, and hands-on activities can support what students learned in the textbook the night before.

Discussion “posts”

I assign iCollege discussion posts, which are due before class meetings. Students submit discussion posts prior to class as a way to ask questions, show examples of concepts, answer peers’ questions, etc. At the end of class, I sometimes ask students to look back at their posts and have them write a “post revision” (a paragraph or two) that discusses how that class period contributed to their thinking about the material covered that day.


For this activity, I ask students spend a couple of minutes looking at the material we will cover for the next class. Then I ask them to jot down a few sentences that says how class for that day prepares them for what we cover in the next class. This process not only reinforces student learning for the material we already covered but also prepares them for what’s to come—and maybe makes the future lesson less intimidating.

Last Minute Thoughts

If the pandemic has taught me anything about teaching and students, it’s the importance of flexibility. Being flexible means remaining nimble in pedagogical delivery and student assessment (not student outcomes). Moving assignments we traditionally open class with to the end offers students the chance to integrate the day’s learning into their knowledge base. These low-stakes techniques help students make connections between concepts and look forward to your next class’s first five minutes.


aholmes • October 8, 2021

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