Save The Last Word For Me

UDL 3.3

Save The Last Word For Me (STLWFM) is a discussion strategy where students select 3-5 excerpts (e.g., words, sentences, quotes) from a text that they agree or disagree with, found interesting, or still have questions about, to discuss with peers and deepen understanding. Students are given index cards to record and identify these reactions. On the front of the card, students highlight direct information that stood out for them. On the back, students include comments about “why” they choose this information (e.g., what it meant to them, a connection they made to their personal life). In small groups, a focus student first reads the statement on the front of their card. After, only the other group members discuss and debate why they think this information was selected. After sharing their reactions, the focus student “gets the last word” by vocalizing their original comments (i.e., identified on the back of their card). Students take turns sharing excerpts until all insights have been addressed. While other discussion strategies foster collaboration, STLWFM differs in that it structures meaningful conversations using student-generated inquiries.

Implementation Tips

Creating Direction Cards
Create an outline to define student expectations while participating in a Save The Last Word For Me activity (e.g., ways to respond: agree/disagree, still wondering about or found interesting; how to take turns). List these guidelines on a poster or print out [[ | these instruction cards for each group to reference ]].
Prepare additional copies of texts for students to reread when forming thoughts and opinions to highlight on their cards. Make sure to supply students with several lined index cards to support organized writing reflections.
Introducing Save The Last Word For Me
Explain STLWFM directions using a small group of students to model. Highlight that once a focus student shares an excerpt, they must remain silent while the other members discuss their thoughts about that idea. Lastly, show how the focus student “gets the last word” by revealing their opinion in the end.
Supporting Collaborative Talk
Give each student a manipulative (e.g., a unifix cube, colored tile) to ensure only one student speaks at a time during group discussions and to help students monitor who is participating in the conversation. Explain that each student must place their item into the center to indicate it’s their turn to speak.
Altering Expectations
Alter expectations to support student management needs by asking students to select one excerpt to reflect on, or by guiding students to focus on one type of reflection at a time (e.g., agree/disagree with, found interesting, have questions about). Gradually increase the excerpt and reflection task requirements.
Modify how students engage with STLWFM activities by analyzing images instead of words, a short video, or other learning experiences (e.g., after an inquiry based math activity or science experiment). Explain that students can apply the same strategy by choosing images, characters, or other moments that stood out.
Building a Routine
Use this strategy to structure meaningful student-to-student conversations after reading texts, as a means to prepare students before a debate (e.g., for deeper processing around content and vocabulary, and to practice supporting opinions), or as a way to support students with researching information.


Using Text Reflections to Deepen Comprehension
As part of a non-fiction reading lesson, a teacher uses the Save The Last Word For Me strategy to promote higher levels of student engagement and interaction while reflecting on texts. First, the teacher explains the guidelines (e.g., reread, select at least one excerpt and identify it on the front of a card, identify “why” that stood out for you on the back of the card, group sharing etiquette). After, copies of the text and index cards are distributed for students to read and record their reactions. Next, groups are formed and one-by-one, students take turns being the focus student who shares an idea (e.g., “Bees need protection.”) and allows group to discuss the “why” behind that student’s choice (e.g., “Maybe it’s because bees help pollinate flowers.”) After, the focus student “gets the last word” by sharing their original written reaction (e.g., “I agreed that we must save bees because they impact our entire ecosystem!”).
Analyzing Images To Support Visual Learners
During a “Then & Now” social studies unit focusing on what life was like in the past, a teacher modifies the STLWFM strategy to deepen student understanding using images instead of words. The teacher presents a collection of posters, paintings, and photographs of Colonial life, and asks students to choose three images that stand out to them. Students are asked to create “quick sketches” of each image on the front of their cards, and to describe in words why each image stood out to them on the back. The teacher notices the heightened level of enthusiasm the class has about sharing ideas, and provides students with the pre-taught strategy of using a manipulative, such as a colored tile, as a talking tool to ensure discussions are successful (e.g., whoever places their manipulative in the center “has the floor” the speak).

Related Strategies