10 Powered-Up Plenary Ideas
Freshen up your planning with these adaptable, quick and easy plenary ideas.
Here at PlanBee, I—and the rest of our small team of former primary teachers—often draw upon our past experiences in the classroom when we're creating new teaching resources. For me at least, this has always included repurposing some of the tried and tested plenary ideas I regularly used with my pupils.
Recently, I realised I was starting to get stuck in a rut. I needed some new ideas to keep my lesson plans fresh! Since then, I've had a significant rethink about planning plenaries and built up a bank of new activities which are quick, effective and easily adapted to whatever your class happen to be learning.
This list of 10 'powered-up' plenary ideas includes activities from me and my teacher colleagues. Many of them can be found in our recently-published schemes of work.
How are these plenary ideas 'powered-up'?
More than just helping evaluate the learning of all your pupils, these plenary ideas deliver profound learning which extends beyond what you've covered in the lesson. They encourage children to: apply what they've learnt in a different context; memorise what they've learnt; consider ways in which they could extend their own learning or identify their own strengths and weaknesses.
10 plenary ideas for primary teachers
- The 'Write Your Own' plenary
- The 'Odd One Out' plenary
- The Venn diagram plenary
- The 'What's Wrong?' plenary
- The 'Three Things…' plenary
- The 'What is the Question?' plenary
- The 'Taboo' plenary
- The 'Pictionary' plenary
- The 'What next?' plenary
- The 'sticky' plenary
1. The 'Write Your Own' plenary
Don't even write a question; get the children to do it! This isn't as lazy as it sounds, as you'll get children to really think about what they've learned, how much they've understood, and consider what aspects of the learning others might find difficult. This can also have the added, bonus effect of getting children to help each other with elements of the learning they've found difficult. Ask your class this:
"If the objective of today's lesson was written as a question, what would that question be?"
"Do you think you could answer all, part, or none of that question? Could you answer the question in a way that others who haven't been in this lesson could understand?"
As always, allow plenty of time for talk and feedback. You might get a few surprises – there's bound to be a few children who've got the wrong end of the stick completely. At least this way, you'll know who they are in advance of the next lesson!
2. The 'Odd One Out' plenary
This is a great one for Science, History or Geography, in particular. Give children a list of three or more things from the lesson, e.g. Earth, the Sun and the Moon. Ask "which is the odd one out? Why?"
Explain to your pupils that there is no right or wrong answer, but that they must justify their choice.
Use 'think, pair, share' to give children a chance to develop and refine their justifications before they share them with the class.
3. The Venn diagram plenary
Similar to 'Odd One Out', above, this plenary challenges children to compare things that they've learnt about during the lesson, justifying their reasons.
Instruct individuals, pairs or small groups to draw a Venn diagram with two intersecting sets on a mini-whiteboard, scrap paper or a tablet computer. Write a list of things to do with the lesson on the board, e.g. animals found in coastal regions. Challenge children to find their own way of organising the list using the Venn diagram. Allow time for them to share their diagram and explain their reasoning.
Challenge children to add items to the 'universal set' outside of the two intersecting sets. What things don't fit in the sets, and why?
Here's an example of a Venn diagram mini-plenary during the teaching input of Data Handling – a Maths scheme of work for Year 4:
4. The 'What's Wrong?' plenary
This one requires a little more prep, but it's a powerful way to identify gaps in your pupils' learning.
Show children a text (such as a character description or a set of instructions), a sketch or a diagram with several errors. Here's an example of what this might like from Handling Data, a Maths scheme of work for Year 4:
For a quick, simple check of learning, ask children to identify all the mistakes. BUT – for a more profound experience, challenge children to determine how it could be improved. You'll get much better talk for learning, that way!
Go a step further if you want children to develop social skills at the same time: ask them to explain how they would constructively criticise, and help the creator of the mistake-riddled piece!
5. The 'Three Things…' plenary
This is a quick, easy plenary idea that you can use at critical moments during a lesson. Ask children to list three things they have just learnt.
Challenge children to find out three things their partner has learnt today, too.
Instruct pupils to write three top tips for anyone learning about the subject of the lesson.
6. The 'What is the Question?' plenary
Another quick, easy plenary idea that you can use to check for understanding throughout any lesson.
Write a single word or a short phrase (related to the learning) on the board. Ask children:
"If this is the answer, what is the question?"
Challenge children to extend or improve the 'answer' that you wrote on the board. Can they answer the question better than you did?
7. The 'Taboo' plenary
Like the popular game, this plenary idea is excellent for getting your pupils to think carefully about the meaning of key vocabulary. Invite two children up to the front. Show one a 'secret' word (related to the learning) which they must describe to their partner without using the word itself. The 'guesser' can stay up at the front to read another secret word and explain it to a new partner, and so on.
As in the original 'Taboo' game, increase the challenge by showing the child describing a short list of additional words they cannot use when describing the secret word to their partner.
8. The 'Pictionary' plenary
Similar to 'Taboo', except that children must draw pictures to describe the secret word you show them.
Make it a whole-class plenary activity! Invite one child from each table up to read the secret word. Instruct them to go back to their tables and draw pictures to describe the word. The rest of the children around their table may guess what they are drawing.
9. The 'What next?' plenary
Another easy, but powerful, plenary idea that requires nothing more than a few minutes for discussion. This activity encourages children to reflect not only on what they have learnt already but also the broader implications of that knowledge, particularly for their own learning journeys.
Ask children to think, pair, share their answers to this question:
"What do you think we should learn about this subject next, to build on what we have learnt already?"
Extend the discussion by asking a follow-up question:
"What unanswered questions do you now have, after what we have learnt today?"
This is a particularly useful follow-up question in science lessons, as whatever you have just taught will inevitably lead to more complex questions about scientific concepts being asked by your pupils.
The 'sticky' plenary
Finally, here's one of our favourite quick and easy plenary ideas. We love this one because it can really help you, the teacher, find knowledge gaps at the end of a lesson. It can often seem like a lesson has gone well if you've got through everything you planned to and your pupils appeared to be engaged. This plenary will help you check if children have, in fact, achieved the learning aims. Ask children:
"What one thing has stuck with you today? What new knowledge or skill will you remember or use in a week, a month, a year?"
You'll be amazed at what has 'stuck' for some of your pupils – often it's absolutely nothing to do with the learning objectives! Make a note of any clear misunderstandings, and try to address those in future lessons.
Make this plenary work for you in more than one way! If you have a class Twitter account or blog, note down and share some of the responses. That way you'll have a record of learning which you can share with parents, too.