Save The Last Word Teaching Strategy

The Save The Last Word teaching strategy is a fantastic way to get all students to practise both speaking and listening in the classroom.  

The Save The Last Word teaching strategy is a fantastic way to get all students to practise both speaking and listening in the classroom.  

How Does This Save The Last Word Teaching Strategy Work?

  1. Select a text that students will be responding to.  Most commonly Save the Last Word is done with an actual written text, but it also works very well with a video, an image, a classmate’s speech, a poem, or anything else that you would like students to discuss and react to.
  2. Have students read the selected text or review one that they have already read (i.e. last night’s assigned reading). This can be done as a class or individually.
  3. Each student should pull out several quotes (ideas, thoughts, portions of the image, etc.) that stand out and/or speak to them.
  4. Pass out (or have students pull out) note cards–one for each quote the students chose.  On one side of each notecard, students should write one of the quotes they picked. On the other side of the notecard, students should write a few thoughts they have on the quote. This might be why it stood out to them, what they think about it, a connection to their lives, or anything else that the student wants to share.
  5. Once students have finished the above work, place them in groups of three.  
  6. Students will take turns sharing a quote from one of their cards and then listening while their other two group members discuss the quote. For instance, Student A will share a quote and then listen as Students B and C discuss it.  
  7. Once the two group members (B and C) have finished discussing, Student A will read what he or she wrote on the back of their card, thus getting the “last word” in the discussion.
  8. Students then rotate who shares/listens and who discusses until all students have shared all their cards.
  9. Remember to set a visual timer for this activity so students do not waste time. 

How Do I Use This Strategy?

  1. Use Save the Last Word to give some variety to your typical class discussion.  This could be anything from discussing a chapter in a literature class to a primary source document in a history class.  
  2. Save the Last Word is a great way to break up a video that you are showing in class. After every section of the video, stop and begin at Step 3 above. Have students pull one thing (instead of several) to put on a notecard. These breaks should take no more than five or six minutes, but they allow lots to be discussed and help the material stick with students much better than just showing the movie and discussing it at the end.
  3. Save the Last Word is one of my favourite ways to discuss primary source artwork, images, and photographs in history class. I project one of these on my projection screen, maybe give a bit of background on the item, and then have students react to it. This can be a productive way to either go through a whole series of visual items in a single class period without students losing interest or to do one image every day at the beginning or end of the period as a bellringer activity.

Why Do I Love This Strategy?

  1. Save the Last Word gives all students practice both speaking and listening.  
  2. Save the Last Word is a student-led activity. Students get to identify and discuss the aspects of the text that stand out to and interest them thus giving the activity a built-in hook for your class.

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