Below are some simple activities you can use at the end of any lesson as a plenary to check the level of understanding amongst your pupils and to spot any misconceptions that might have otherwise slipped you by.
Have your pupils write one sentence summarising the most important thing they think they learned this lesson. Can they get it down to just three words? Pupils share their sentence with a partner and (if time) try and merge their sentences to make an even better summary. Randomly select one or two pupils to share their sentence with the class.
Draw a Picture
Have pupils draw a picture (perhaps on a mini-whiteboard) of what they have learned this lesson to help them remember the lesson, and have pupils take turns explaining their picture to another student.
Eyes Closed Confidence Check
At the end of the lesson all pupils close their eyes and hold up one hand. They hold up one finger if they are really not sure about what has been covered, two fingers if they are getting there but think they need a bit more practice, and three fingers if they think they understand everything and could teach someone else. Good to gauge what your students think of their own progress and level of understanding.
Could you explain what we’ve been learning to an alien? What would you say? Could you explain what we have learned this lesson to someone who was ill and missed it? What would you say? This can be done as a quick write or as a pair/group talk with everyone getting one minute or 30 seconds to speak.
Give students a small piece of paper (I usually cut up an A4 piece of paper into eighths) to answer questions by themselves as a form of individual mini-quiz at the end of the lesson. Ask a question which allows you to gauge their understanding without them having to do much writing, possibly even a couple of multiple choice questions you can have up on the board.
Have children fold their slips then hand them in before they leave your lesson. As an example, I spent a lesson looking at identifying suffixes. At the end of the lesson I put up a smartboard page with some words and asked my pupils to write the words down on their slips and then circle the suffixes. They had perhaps only one or two minutes to do this. I allowed very quick finishers to draw a small picture of what they had learned today on their slip too so that they had a short little activity to keep them engaged whilst everyone else finished up.
They put their slips (which had their names on!) onto my chair before leaving, and then I quickly looked through each one to check their understanding. Any mistakes or misconceptions were picked up by me and could be addressed as a warmer at the start of the next lesson. I used to do fancy exit slips, but now I like to just use small bits of blank paper which can be easily checked over then discarded. They aren’t marked, but used to provide feedback to me to inform my planning. Exit slips are particularly useful in lessons where you’ve been doing a practical/group task and you want to check individual understanding.
….And here’s a bonus activity that I find works best once a week.
A good Friday summarising activity. Ask pupils to write down or draw what they have found to be the most challenging thing for them to learn that week. This is their muddiest point. Give pupils five or ten minutes to discuss with each other in pairs or small groups their muddiest points and have them try and coach each other to improve understanding. If the issue can’t be clarified by another pupil then the teacher agrees to discuss this point with the whole class, BUT before this can happen every pupil has to have checked with at least three other students first.