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Save the Last Word for Me

This discussion technique encourages meaningful classroom conversations by eliciting differing opinions and interpretations of text. Asking students to think about their reading stimulates reflection and helps to develop active and thoughtful readers. Save the Last Word for Me also prompts classroom interaction and cooperative group discussion.

How to use

1. Read

Assign a section of text and ask students to find three to five quotes from the text that they think are particularly interesting. The quotes may be something they agree or disagree with, something they find interesting, something they didn’t know, something they would like to tell someone about, etc.

* For elementary students, only have them prepare one quote.

2. Write

Pass out index cards or slips of paper to each student, one card for each quote they have found.  On one side of the card, ask students to write down the statements from the text.  On the other side, instruct them to write any comments or feelings about their statements.  

3. Group and Share

Divide the class into groups of 3-5 students. All students in the group are allowed to share one of their quote cards. The first student reads one of their quotes to the group and shows where to locate it in the text.  However, the student isn’t allowed to make any comments about his or her quote until the other members of the group give their reactions.  Therefore, the student gets the last word in the discussion of the statement.  This process continues until everyone in the group has shared at least one quote and has provided the last word in the discussion.

When to use

Use Save the Last Word for Me at any point in the lesson to structure meaningful conversation:

  • While reading a story, novel, professional article, or chapter of text
  • After completing a reading selection that could be debatable or thought-provoking
  • Before students debate a topic
  • When teaching fact vs. opinion and how to support an opinion
  • As a researching or note-taking tool before writing a paper



Students can use this same strategy while watching a film, choosing five moments in the film, five actions, five characters, five images . . .

Using Images

This same process can be used with images instead of quotations. 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.

Using Question

Ask students to write down three “probing” questions the text raises for them.  Students answer the questions on the back of their cards. In small groups, students select one of their questions for the other students to discuss (see Sentence Stems or Talk Like a Genius for question stems).

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