Practical Tips & Tools

Basic Literacy & Numeracy

Make the First and Last 5 Minutes of Class Your Super Power!

April 11, 2022

This article by New Readers Press sales representative and adult educator Rebecca Eller-Molitas was originally published at:  

Enrollment in traditional educational programs has suffered during the pandemic. Retention is critical. 

Here are some simple, low-prep steps you can take to retain adult learners in your classes.  

The first 5 minutes: 

Every term I talk with my ESL students about their expectations. They always say the same things. 

  1. I want the teacher to be smiling. 
  2. I want to be respected.
  3. I want to improve my XYZ.

Knowing what learners expect is powerful! Make them feel welcome by smiling, greeting them as they enter (even if they’re late), and starting with the assumption that all learners can achieve their goals when given the opportunity. If a student has been absent, it can be helpful to let them know you’re happy they’re back. 

Next, learners expect us to know why they’re in the learning space and to provide content, resources, and instruction that help them improve. Be sure to post a visible agenda at the start of every class. Go through it before you begin. Tie the items on the agenda to expressed student goals. Sometimes I ask students to brainstorm why an item is important. For example: “We’re practicing measurement today. How can you use this at home or work?” 

The last 5 minutes: 

Go back to your agenda 

Read through it. What did you cover? Ask students what was new for them. Typically, I have a sense of where students are with the materials, but I love to hear what they think of their progress. For very low levels, I give them red, yellow, and green flash cards (or Zoom backgrounds). Sometimes I put an emoji on them. When I ask how students feel on an agenda item, a red card means it’s scary; I need more help. A yellow card means things are so, so. And, a green card means I got it! 

Don’t try to reteach anything in these last moments. Acknowledge that some areas are difficult. Let them know they’ll learn more about those in the next class. I like to assign homework from a yellow category so that students don’t lose new knowledge. Brag on student successes in green areas. This reminds students of what they’ve accomplished and lets them leave the class feeling successful. 

Your newest super powers: 

  • Improved class dynamics 
  • Student retention 
  • Knowledge retention 
  • You’ve planned part of your next class!