How many times have you found yourself or someone close to you using one of the following phrases? He who laughs last, laughs best. I just have to get the last word in. I loved that movie but the ending just didn’t make sense. Probably often, right? That’s because of a beautiful psychological principle called the recency effect. Lawyers and mediators use it to their advantage and so should you.
The recency effect is born out of the work of German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus. Among his many achievements was documenting the tendency to remember best the first and last items in a list. Further studies were undertaken that bolstered the findings, including the importance of the last piece of information being the most critical to shaping our opinions and memories (Miller, N. & Campbell, D.T, 1959). This recency effect is vital to how our brains process and store information. Can you imagine a courtroom drama without a closing argument? Just as we wouldn’t let a lawyer end a case without getting a final word in, we as educators should strive close each lesson segment in style.
Every educator should ensure that the last bit of information presented is vital, correct, and specific. As the recency effect makes clear, this material is the most likely to be retained. So whether you are a first grade teacher finishing Social Studies before moving on to Math, a 9th grade Biology teacher powering down before the bell rings, or a Principal finishing up a professional development session, remember to close your lesson with purpose.
There are a variety of whole class, small group, and individual lesson closure activities, including:
Whip-around: all students go around the classroom sharing one thing they learned or something they will put into practice moving forward.
3-2-1: students identify 3 things they learned, 2 interesting items, and 1 lingering question.
Exit slip: students answer multiple-choice and/or brief open-ended questions based on the day’s objective(s).
Teacher talk: teacher reviews the class objective(s) and provides the foundational takeaways.