Educational psychologists have found that the content we teach or discuss at the beginning and end of class is more likely to be remembered than the content in the middle (Lang, 2016; Slavin, 2018). Intentionally using these opening and closing windows can influence the engagement of students in their learning” by connecting them to past concepts, the bigger picture, personal impact, current context, and more (Yale Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning). In addition to beginning and ending activities, beginning and ending routines help ground students to their task at hand, create community and give them space from all the other distractions asking for their attention (Facing History and Ourselves, 2022).  

Already in the first couple of weeks of the fall semester, students and faculty members alike are struggling with being present, retaining information, focusing, belonging and many other issues that we have taken for granted in the past, especially in the first couple of weeks of a semester. “Things feel different” is a comment that has been repeated in faculty meetings, the classroom and around campus. Some of this is positive, as it is great to see folks on campus and having the parking lots full (unless you are the one stuck driving around trying to find a space). But where it feels overwhelming is when we are describing the classroom, both on campus and online. Concentrating on the beginnings and endings of your class is one small thing you can do to help students (and yourself) deal with the feelings of being overwhelmed and lack of focus. Whether you focus on adding in intentional activities or routines, framing your class will create an impactful experience.  

Take a SIP of this: how to frame your class

Beginning routines: 

  • Find an inspirational quote to start every class.  
  • Ask students to share how they prepare for class and build in one of these methods as a routine all semester — the class could vote.  
  • If online, start each discussion board with the same greeting or graphic.  

Beginning activities:  

  • Ask a student to share at the beginning of class one thing they remember from the week before or something from class that they thought of during the week.  
  • Demonstrations — model or demonstrate the skill or activity that will be discussed that day in class or online. Make a video demonstration to start the discussion or lecture.  
  • Stories — use a story or video to engage students into the area of study.  
  • Problems — start off with a problem to solve. It might be a review, or maybe it is related to the class lecture or activity of the day.  
  • Review the main three takeaways from your previous class or discussion board.  
  • Try to avoid starting with housekeeping or extensive agendas — be intentional.  

Ending routines:

  • Stand at the door and say goodbye to folks.  
  • If online, end your discussion posts or announcements with a different picture of you, such as with your pet.  
  • Play music as your Teams, Zoom or campus meeting ends.  

Ending activities:  

  • Teasers: End the class with a cliffhanger or teaser to get students excited about the next week. 
  • Muddy writing: Ask students where their learning is still muddy, have them write it down, collect them on the way out, and bring clarity in a follow-up class or announcement.  
  • Exit tickets: Ask students to share two things that they learned today or share two ways that the content relates to their life.  
  • Share the main three takeaways or have the students shout them out and write them on the board.  
  • Try to avoid cramming in five extra points just to have the “bell” or end of class interrupt your thought with students packing and getting up to leave.  

Still thirsty? Take another SIP:

Resource sheets for beginning and ending ideas:  


Lang, J. (January 2016).  Small Changes in Teaching: The First 5 Minutes of Class. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Advice. 

Slavin, R. (2018). Educational psychology: Theory into practice. (12th edition). New York: Pearson Pub.