A plenary is very useful at the end of the lesson, but these activities need not be pigeonholed to the part of the period when you are winding things up. They can be a part of the ongoing formative assessment, used as a tool to feedback and summarise learning at key points throughout the lesson.
Teachertoolkit.co.uk has a great blog post on purposeful plenaries, I am going to highlight some of the key points below but please go and have a read for some great practical hints and tips.
1) The plenary allows the teacher to assess the whole class’s understanding at once.
2) They are planned into a lesson where appropriate to summarise learning and this is not necessarily at the end. Mini plenaries can be used as an effective form of assessment at transition points within a lesson, although make sure pupil learning or consolidation is at the heart of a mini plenary, not just a tick box exercise (Phil Beadle, 2013).
3) They are differentiated to the needs of your class. This is tricky! Allowing your class to access the plenary is critical but some challenge is needed so you can assess what they do not know.
4) An effective plenary should highlight the pupil’s misconceptions; once identified they need to be addressed either at the time or within the lessons that follow.
5) They give the pupils opportunity to reflect on what and how they have learnt and guides them to their next steps to success.
On my travels around Harris Academy this week I spent a bit of time in our drama studio talking to Ms McTavish about how she uses plenary tags in her classes. The tags were very eye catching as you can see from the picture of a selection of them below. She explained to me how she uses them...
"During the plenary, I was developing a routine of asking the same questions which was becoming repetitive and boring.
I wrote various questions on cards which would facilitate discussion and different instructions on cards to give more structure to the plenary.
As they are visual, they remind me to keep on track of time and to think about my questioning strategies. I use them in a variety of ways from selecting a specific one, choosing one at random or asking pupils to choose one to answer individually or as group."
Please go and have a chat with Mrs McTavish in the drama studio if you have any more questions. Also, check out the learning and teaching folder on the shared folder for some more resources - in the co-op learning folder there is a 'lesson review' interactive presentation which can be used as a plenary activity. As always, if you have any queries or questions please get in touch at email@example.com. Similarly if you want to get in touch to share some good practice so that other staff can benefit please come and see me or drop me an e-mail.