Primary school lessons – how to start and finish a lesson

Its a simple enough fact that all lessons should have a start and an end….except when I go to watch some teachers “in action” it is difficult to spot when either or even both of these happen!!

One of the major differences in teaching at Primary and Secondary level is that in Primary teaching it is usually the same teacher that is covering all the subjects. In Secondary education the pupils (or students!) will usually pack away their things and change rooms for the next subject – but in Primary teaching the children will stay in the same room.

Which makes it even more important for the lesson / subject change to be amplified in order that the pupils can “readjust” to the new theme or focus.

On a teaching timetable you will see the lessons set out across each day with the times running seamlessly into each other – however in practice this cannot happen as the timetables do not even allow us to breathe between lessons never mind get set up and operating!

By the nature of things you, as the teacher, will have the mechanics of closing one lesson down, readjusting the logistics of equipment and books prior to commencing the new lesson. But lets be honest here we all need a bit of a break before ploughing on with the next topic!

In reality it probably takes about 5 minutes to get a new lesson operational. If you have organised your class as suggested previously then you will have monitors rushing about sorting the books and equipment for you , this allows you to let the brake off class discipline slightly (i.e pupils can talk, or toilet break etc) whilst still having a viewpoint for class control if needed.


This slight break is necessary after the concentration of the previous lesson and also allows you to sort anything you need for the next lesson – although  you should really have everything to hand and ready but may need just to either upload something or sort out some equipment or resources that could not have been done previously.

Having had this time then the class need to be ready for the next lesson and you firmly need to bring the class back into “lesson mode”

As with any class – they will have totally forgotten what was covered in past lessons and so I find it is always a good idea to look back in exercise books to refresh memories. If you remember from previous posts, I stated that it was always a good idea to get main lesson learning points written in books as well as key diagrams. BY looking back and having children read from their exercise books then the whole class gets a reminder of what was covered previously. You could always expand on this by asking questions in order to “assess” the previous understanding.

Don’t just get 1 child to read everything – keep stopping and changing readers so that the whole class has to follow what is being read just in case they are asked to “carry on”….and come down hard on any child who is caught out!

Having refreshed our memories it is now time to move on….at this point you are going to ask the new question, set the new goal, state the new learning intention for the lesson. It was a practice some time ago to write the learning objective/intention on the board and have the children copy it into their books. Once again this is a waste of time…the children couldn’t care less – so unless it is compulsory in your school then don’t bother. But do share with the class what you are looking to find out in the lesson.

Finishing off your lessons can happen in many ways and really depends on the how the lesson has gone. Here are some scenario’s…all are correct

  • Review of the objective stated at the start of the lesson and how we have matched that
  • Questions around the lesson content to assess depth of understanding
  • Reports back from group work and summary by teacher
  • Brief quiz on topic area which involves this and previous lessons
  • Lesson overran and so summarise where you have got to and that you will continue next time
  • Lesson did not go to plan and was stopped mid way in order to re-plan and redeliver another day
  • Its been hard going on a difficult subject – so just collect the books up !!
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Of course – if the lesson has involved children writing or completing set work then you will be using my famous check system before the lesson ends.  To remind you – 5 minutes before the lesson ends you will be walking around the class informing children how they are doing in respect of what was asked. Children will know (because of your class rules) that unfinished work means they stay in at playtime or dinner time (or both) to complete the work. At the end of the lesson the children will have their books open and you will walk round with a pencil and paper and look at the work done. If its ok then they will be going out – if not completed or untidy etc then you will write down their names and simply say “In”…its as harsh as that!  As I have said before the class soon gets to know what happens and this occurs less and less – plus you don’t get unfinished or messy work that you only find when you open the books to mark!

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