• The Core Collaborative

Punctuate Your Learning Time

By Connie Hamilton



There isn’t a teacher on the planet who hasn’t had temporary moments of panic when the clock seems to be going faster than anticipated.


What do you do when a lesson goes long and has to carry into the next day?

How do you wrap up learning time?


Some common actions I see include:

  • We will pick up tomorrow where we left off. 

  • Oops - we're out of time, so think about this tonight. 

  • Great job today - see you tomorrow. 

  • Have a great weekend everybody!

While there's nothing wrong with these statements, they do very little to provide closure to the time dedicated to learning.

Even when a lesson doesn't naturally end perfectly before the bell or a transition, it's still helpful to take a step back and summarize or reflect on what they DID accomplish. 

Consider this perspective: When you're writing a lesson and you get interrupted in the middle, causing you to have to abandon planning for a few hours, how long does it take you to pick up where you left off when you have time to return to the task?


Compare that to if you knew you weren't going to finish during your planning period and were able to take a minute before the bell to make a mental note of what you accomplished and what you have to do next? 


If you're like me - the second scenario provides a much smoother transition back into the task. Students are no different. Lesson closure should happen at the end of learning time AND at the end of the lesson when they don't sync beautifully. 



Even though we recognize how chaotic it is in our personal lives to end a task abruptly, it happens to students on a regular basis. When it is apparent that a lesson is going to extend into day 2, instead of using every last minute for the task, consider giving students a few minutes to pause and punctuate their learning for the day:


Pause and offer students an opportunity to reflect on how much they accomplished and where they are in relation to where they are going with their learning.


Choosing the best punctuation mark emphasizes that learning is ongoing and does not always fit in a 55-minute block of time. Turning the reflection over to students flips their thinking from content to metacognitive process.


When the lesson runs long, you’re likely to see more apostrophes, commas, and ellipses. Each will give you a different perspective on:

  • if students are clear on their next learning steps,

  • if they are unsure of their understanding, or

  • just need an opportunity to apply the learning.


This is just one tool that you can use to help students process where they are in their learning progression. It comes from the book Hacking Questions by Connie Hamilton. It's certainly not the only way to close a lesson, but it does offer a variety of options that fit various places during a lesson. It also doesn’t hurt to throw in a little grammar!


How will you intentionally provide a formal closer to the learning time, even if the learning will continue? Please share.

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The Core Collaborative

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