My Top 10 Plenary Ideas


Below is a list of my favourite and most commonly used plenaries. They are from all over, and I have given credit if I can remember where I found it. Each has a description, an estimate for time needed, a difficulty rating (out of 5) and a student engagement rating (also out of 5). The difficulty rating is dependent on students’ understanding for the lesson, and the student engagement rating is based on my own experience with these plenaries.

Please add any other great ideas to the comments!

Number 10 - WWW and EBI

Time needed: 2 minutes

Difficulty: 1

Student engagement: 2

How it works: Students write down one thing they have done successfully (What Went Well) from the lesson, and one thing they would like to improve (Even Better If). Encourage students to use the keywords of the lesson so you don’t end up with “Even better if I worked faster”.


Number 9 - Two stars and a wish

Time needed: 3 minutes

Difficulty: 1

Student engagement: 2

How it works: Not dissimilar from the one above, students write down two things they have done from the lesson, and one thing they would like to develop. Again, encourage the use of the lesson’s key words.


Number 8 - Text to a friend

Time needed: 3-5 minutes

Difficulty: 2

Student engagement: 4

How it works: I tend to introduce this with how much texts use to cost each, how the limit is 160 characters, and how I used to use “text speak” to reduce the message down to one text. After the class have laughed at how old I am, I ask them to write a concise text message to their friend with the key learning points from the lesson. Key words are encouraged, but I let them off with spelling to help them stay within the 160 characters.

Number 7 - Step-by-step guide

Time needed: 3-5 minutes

Difficulty: 3

Student engagement: 3

How it works: This works best for a topic that will be revisited in the following lesson. Students write a step-by-step guide for themselves or for a peer on the methodology used during the lesson. Some students prefer to write out an example and annotate it instead.

Number 6 - Design a “what’s the same, what’s different?”

Time needed: 5-10 minutes

Difficulty: 5

Student engagement: 3

How it works: I often use these types of questions as a starter activity to get students thinking about similarities and pre-empting misconceptions. This works particularly well for a topic involving equivalence. Students will find this challenging if they do not have a good understanding of the topic. Once students have created a “what’s the same, what’s different?”, depending on time, get them to swap, compare and discuss their creations.

Number 5 - Spot the mistake

Time needed: 5 minutes

Difficulty: 4

Student engagement: 3

How it works: These work best for multi-step problems or exam questions. Show students a question and an answer and they need to spot the mistake. Stretch and challenge are easy for this plenary as you can ask students to articulate the misconception or answer the question correctly.

Number 4 - Write an exam question

Time needed: 10 minutes

Difficulty: 5

Student engagement: 2

How it works: This requires a high level of understanding and for students to have come into contact with exam questions on that topic previously. It’s up to them to write a clear question, state its marks and write a corresponding mark scheme. Depending on time available, you may want to get students to swap their exam questions to answer them, then swap back to mark them using the mark scheme.

Number 3 - This is the answer

Time needed: 5 minutes

Difficulty: 3

Student engagement: 4

How it works: This plenary can be made as simple or as difficult as you like. You may wish to choose one topic, or several, to apply it to. All you need to do is write a number/ expression/ proportion on the board and ask students what the question could have been. Engagement is usually quite high as all students feel they can come up with a question, no matter how simple.

Number 2 - Plenary triangle

Time needed: 5 minutes

Difficulty: 3

Student engagement: 4

How it works: I find this plenary the most useful in terms of informing my future planning. A printout can be found here. Students write three skills they have used but already knew in the bottom three boxes. They write two things they have learnt, practised or revised in the middle two boxes. The top box is for a question about the topic or a skill the student wishes to develop further. I have once spent a whole lesson answering students’ questions from the top box. I have also have a student who went out of his way to write the hardest exam question he could think of for me to answer before the next lesson. Again student engagement is high because they can all complete it. Key words are encouraged.


Number 1 - Emoji exit ticket

Time needed: 5 minutes

Difficulty: 1

Student engagement: 5

How it works: I came across this one recently on Twitter and it has proven very popular with my students. It was created by Twitter user @87history and can be found here. Student engagement is high as all students need to do is write about how they feel about the topic. I tend to get quite detailed responses from my students – they often provide an individual reason for each emoji they circle.


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