Closing ESL/EFL lessons with summaries

Tomonori Ono, Hawai’i Pacific University


Quick Guide

  • Key words: Closure, lessons, summaries
  • Learner English level: Beginners and above
  • Learner maturity: High school, university, or adult
  • Preparation time: 1 minute
  • Activity time: 10 minutes
  • Materials: Blackboard or whiteboard, two chalk or pen colors


Since closure is an integral part of a lesson, a practical understanding on how to end lessons is beneficial for ESL/EFL teaching pedagogy. In particular, Duff and Uchida (1997) classified patterns of ending lessons as part of teachers’ knowledge, more specifically referred to as “procedural knowledge embedded in teaching practices.” Appropriate closure is thus one more factor that needs to be considered when designing our lesson plans. During the planning stage, we typically invest more energy into implementing a suitable opening to the lesson and tend to neglect focusing a proportional amount of energy towards adequate closure. Considering the expectation of closure serves to structure the learning experience of students (Thornbury 1999), this disparity is unfortunate. Dörnyei and Murphey (2003) further reinforce this point by mentioning that there is a need for appropriate closure due to its impact on students’ future learning. However, despite the availability of literature on this area, very little practical information can be found on how to close lessons. The following lesson summary technique is easily replicated and can be successfully applied to most situations when closing a lesson.



Step 1: Spatially divide the board in two by drawing a line from the top of the board to the bottom.

Step 2: Label one-third of the board on the right side under the heading summary. Left-handed instructors might find it more practical to use the left side of the board.

Step 3: Use only two-thirds of the board for the actual lesson. You can erase this active part and write into it again if further space is required.

Step 4: Using a different color, bullet list each key point of your lesson topic as you go along teaching the class. Since you should not erase the summary column, consider carefully the amount of space required to write down the key points.

Step 5: Indent all key sub-headings using the “→” symbol.

Step 6: For visual reinforcement, use darker colors for key points, lighter colors for sub-headings on whiteboard. For blackboards, the reverse applies.

Step 7: Finish the actual lesson 10 minutes before class ends.

Step 8: Erase the active two-thirds of the board.

Step 9: Use the last 10 minutes of class time reviewing some of the key points that were covered in the lesson.

Step 10:Try to elicit students’ responses by asking specific questions about the lesson. This helps the students review mentally what was covered.


Tips for PowerPoint Presentations

  • When using PowerPoint to present a lesson or lecture, the process of creating lesson summaries is easier since the slides have been created beforehand.
  • Use a larger font size in bold for the key points.
  • Excessive usage of colors should be avoided since colors do not necessarily show up well on all slide backgrounds.
  • Sub-headings are best presented indented and underlined.
  • Italics tend to be difficult to read at best, thus the use of italics should be limited within the slide.
  • When sequencing the slides, it is preferable that the lesson summary slide appears at the end after the conclusion slide (and reference slide, if any).
  • Preparing a few additional slides at the very end of the slide show containing the key points of the lecture is also a useful technique to quickly answer questions the students might have.



Lesson summaries are one possible technique through which ESL/EFL teachers can end a lesson. Topics covered in class can thus be reinforced, making the lesson a more efficient learning experience. This could be achieved in two ways: either by explicitly stating what was covered in the lesson or by asking the students what they thought were the most important points of the lesson. This technique can be practical in terms of improving the quality of the students’ comprehension and note taking skills, as long as the layout of the summary is in a well-structured synthesized format.



Dörnyei, Z., & Murphey, T. (2003). Group dynamics in the language classroom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Duff, P., & Uchida, Y. (1997). The negation of teachers’ sociocultural identities and practices in postsecondary EFL classrooms. TESOL Quarterly, 31(3), 451-486.

Thornbury, S. (1999). Lesson art and design. ELT Journal, 53(1), 4-11.