Steps 4 & 5 For Lesson Planning Anything: Get Attention With an Opener & Closer

Open your lesson the right way in order to prime learning

Open your lesson the right way in order to prime learning

We already have the main pieces of a lesson: introducing the new material, guiding students through the material using as much (or as little) practice as necessary, and having students demonstrate mastery on their own. What else do we need?

In order to improve retention of what we teach, recent research suggests we should capture students’ attention before the lesson and then summarize at the end. The summary should bring the lesson full circle—look back at the learning objective, remind students what they learned, why they learned it, and how it’s relevant to them.

One of the best openers I have seen is Lisa Highfill when she taught a lesson during #MeritKCI at the Krause Center of Innovation. She played a video from her pre-session playlist that primed us for the lesson.

The absolute best teacher I have seen use closers is hands down Sheena Vaidyanathan, who, at the end of each Computer Science workshop she taught, ensured everyone left knowing exactly what we had learned and all of the key points.

Close your lesson so students remember  what  they learned,  why  they learned it, and that it was  important .

Close your lesson so students remember what they learned, why they learned it, and that it was important.

Step 4: Opening / Preview / Access Prior Knowledge

  • What/How:

    How will you communicate what is about to happen? How will you communicate how it will happen?

  • Importance:

    How will you communicate the importance of the lesson? How will you connect it to previous lessons?  

  • Engagement:

    How will you engage students?

Step 5: Closing

  • Summarize:

    How will students summarize and state the significance of what they learned?

  • Maintain Interest:

    Why will students be interested?

Let’s take a look at my dad’s lesson described in How to Teach Anything for examples of both of these steps.

Step 4: Opening / Preview / Access Prior Knowledge

  • What/How:

    I will tell students that today I will teach them how to hit a baseball.

  • Importance:

    I will ask students to explain why hitting the ball is the most important part of playing baseball (expected responses: you can’t score runs otherwise)I will also ask students what they already know about hitting (access prior knowledge)

  • Engagement:

    I will show a YouTube video of the 10 most exciting at bats in baseball history, followed by the 10 worst.  Then I would point out some of the things the hitters in the funny video did incorrectly.

Step 5: Closing

  • Summarize:

    At the end of the lesson, I would ask students what they learned.

  • Maintain Interest:

    The students will be proud to explain.


What “hooks” do you have in your bag of tricks that are sure to get students’ attentions and focus the rest of your lesson? What about strategies for summarizing the end of your lesson?