Save the Last Word for Me


The Save the Last Word for Me discussion strategy requires all students to participate as both active speakers and active listeners. Working in groups of three, students follow a pattern of sharing and discussing their responses to a text. By creating a clear structure for the discussion, this strategy encourages reserved students to share their ideas and ensures that frequent speakers practice being quiet. It can be a useful strategy for helping students debrief a reading or film.


  1. Select a Text
    Identify a reading or video excerpt that will serve as the catalyst for this activity.
  2. Students Read and Respond to Text
    Have students read or view the selected text. Ask students to highlight three sentences that particularly stood out for them and write each sentence on the front of an index card. On the back, they should write a few sentences explaining why they chose that quote—what it meant to them, reminded them of, etc. They may have connected it to something that happened to them in their own life, to a film or book they saw or read, or to something that happened in history or is happening in current events.
  3. Students Share in Groups
    Divide the students into groups of three, labeling one student A, one B, and the other C in each group. Invite the A students to read one of their chosen quotations to their group. Then students B and C discuss the quotation. What do they think it means? Why do they think these words might be important? To whom? After several minutes, ask the A students to read the back of their card (or to explain why they picked the quotation), thus having “the last word.” This process continues with the B students sharing and then the C students.


  • Using Images: This same process can be used with images instead of quotations. You could give students a collection of posters, paintings, and photographs from the time period you are studying and then ask students to select three images that stand out to them. On the back of an index card, students should explain why they selected this image and what they think it represents or why it is important.
  • Using Questions: Ask students to think about three “probing” questions the text raises for them. (A “probing” question is interpretive and evaluative. It can be discussed and has no clearly defined “right” answer, as opposed to clarifying questions, which are typically factual in nature.) Students answer the question on the back of their card. In small groups, students select one of their questions for the other two students to discuss.

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