Did you miss NTO’s free webinar “Teaching Topics: Open and Close with Impact” last Thursday? If you weren’t a part of the 80-strong attendees, have no fear, for a recorded edition is being sliced and diced for our YouTube channel right now. In the meantime, this post will review several classroom activities & concepts discussed in our webinar. (But not everything! For that you’ll have to wait for the video and/or our next scheduled webinar.)
First off, what is an opener and a closer? These are classroom activities that frame an instruction session. A popular misconception in instructional metaphor is to think of a class like a sandwich – the opener and closer are the bread, while the content – what you really want folks to learn – is the meat.
This is wrong.
Why? Serial position effect.
Serial position effect is defined as “a tendency for the items near the beginning and end of the series to be recalled best, and those in the middle worst” (1). Serial position effect was coined in the 1910s by Hermann Ebbinghaus, a psychologist who also invented the learning curve. The implications of serial position effect for instruction is that the opening and closing portions of the class are just as important as the meat of your content.
So toss out that learning sandwich, and consider the churro.
The churro is a sugary fried donut item. It is delicious from first bite to last. Churros are long and cylindrical. Towards the middle of your eating experience it may be easy to lapse into a sucrose-sprinkled complacency and forget to appreciate the churro, but once down to the last bite, the churro will live on as a tasty memory. So let’s consider instruction a churro, and openers and closers as your first and last bite. Fresh examples after the jump.