Building in Time to Think and Reflect During Class

There’s so much material to address over a semester or in a single class—so much that your students may need help sifting through it to see the central questions or problems of your course. The brief activities below give students the chance to think through and reflect on lecture and discussion. Several of them also give you an idea of what your students are, or are not, understanding.

  • Assign and collect a “one-minute paper” at the end of class. Ask students to write down the muddiest point, a key idea, or a remaining question from lecture or discussion.
  • Assign a brief writing exercise. A writing exercise that asks students to analyze course material can prepare them to discuss it with greater depth or insight.
  • Solicit real-world applications from your students for the theorems or problems in 
    lecture or discussion. Or ask students to draw connections between a problem in class and one addressed earlier in the semester.
  • Begin a problem on the chalkboard and ask students to work on it independently before calling for their suggestions on how to solve it.
  • Begin class by asking a student to summarize what she learned in the previous one. Or midway through class, ask a student to summarize what’s been addressed in lecture or discussed so far.
  • Pause during lecture or discussion and let your students catch up in their notes or thinking.
  • Before the concluding section of your lecture, give students a few minutes to review their notes and underline central ideas.
  • Prompt your students repeatedly in lecture, discussion, or homework assignments to ask certain questions, observe certain phenomena, or engage more generally in critical inquiry in the discipline.


Davis, Barbara Goss. Tools for Teaching. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2001.

For additional pedagogical resources, visit the Graduate Students and Faculty webpages.