3-Minute Response Paper

During the last 5 minutes of class, ask students to do a quick write. Count on a minute for directions and another minute for collecting papers. Because this assignment permits multiple variations, you can use it to focus on a variety of specific skills.

  • If you ask students to write down, in their own words, the main point of the day’s lecture or discussion, you exercise their ability to listen critically to material presented.
  • You can ask students to write down the supporting reasons for something. If you ask them to write down all the supporting reasons mentioned in your lecture, you exercise their memory. If you ask for only the one or two best reasons, you exercise their discernment as well. If you ask for all possible supporting reasons, you exercise their mental flexibility and imagination.
  • You can ask students to write down the main point of the lecture and two supporting points in order to exercise their ability to listen critically for how major ideas fit together and to discern the difference between major and subordinate ideas.
  • If you ask students to write about the implications of an idea, or about a further question to be explored, or about connections between current material and earlier material, or about the most obvious objections to an idea, you can exercise evaluative skills.
  • You can also make this writing assignment more informative about student understanding by asking students to write down what they did not understand in the day’s explanation or what they believe was left out of the lecture/discussion.

Administration and Implementation

This assignment becomes easier to grade and a better writing (and thinking) exercise, if you specify that students must limit themselves to one or two clear sentences (not just a set of small sentences connected by ands). This condition as well as your strict adherence to a time limit pushes students to think before writing

You can use group feedback from these 3-minute papers as a springboard for starting discussion or lecture at the next class since they will give you a good read on what students do or do not understand. You can provide affirmation, clarification or even ask students to comment on something interesting or unexpected that you discovered in their responses. 

Note: If you warn students in advance that you will be asking them to write on a specific topic at the end of class, you will help them learn to listen in a more focused manner. The 3-minute paper then becomes more of a learning and less of a testing tool. 

Method variations on the 3-minute response paper

You can ask students to do this 3-minute paper at the beginning or in the middle of a lesson and use the paper as a springboard for collaborative work or for a general class discussion. 

You can also ask them at the beginning of class to write down the main points of the reading done for class in order to encourage students to do the reading and in order to assess student understanding of the assigned readings.