The PLENARY – the often forgotten segment of the lesson


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When I used to watch some American television series set in school classrooms, it always used to bug me a lot as a teacher that the bell would ring and every student would suddenly pick up their bag and leave. The reality is (well in my classroom anyway), NOBODY leaves the classroom until I say so! Period! Why? Because firstly it is just straight out rude to walk out on someone or something while you are in the middle of something, and secondly, those last few minutes are some of the most valuable teaching moments.

The plenary is simply the last section of your lesson where you remind the students somehow of what this whole lesson was all about, it can be in terms of a summary, a quick quiz or even something the students give back to you as feedback on what they have learned today.

It is also a well-known fact that in advertising, the key point of the advert needs to be somehow repeated three time before anyone will remember anything about it.  These days advertising is so sophisticated that it is difficult to even identify when and where it is stated, but somehow you remember it. Teaching a concept isn’t really much different.

The usual layout of the lesson is of course in three stages:

  1. The introduction
  2. The teaching of the concept
  3. The practice of the concept

However, there should always be another step –

  1. The review of the concept – or the plenary.

Some teachers use the plenary as the summary of the success of how well the class grasped the concept. This is where the teacher makes some notes on what to review again the next lesson, what is the most successful method of learning for this group and who needs more or less help than others.

All these points are very important for delivering a curriculum. Just sending it out there is not enough, you do need to see if it lands where and how you want it to – the plenary will do that for you.

So next time the bell rings while you are teaching, use it as a reminder to do a quick 1-5 minute plenary session, your students will respect you for it and everyone will learn a lot more at the same time.


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