Minute papers are small doubled-sided A5 sheets, blank other than the pre-printed heading which is always in the form of a perplexing key question. It is this question that drives the lesson. At some point, usually soon after the half-way point of the lesson, and certainly before 2/3rds of the way through, students are asked to write a very quick answer to the question they have been exploring in just 2 minutes. The aim is to capture the main ideas, so there is no need for full sentences or elaborated points, just answer as if replying to someone who had just asked you that question.
By restricting students to just two minutes it helps concentrate students’ minds wonderfully but, more importantly, it allows you to gain an insight into what each student is thinking at that stage of the investigation. Collecting in selected minute papers, you can gauge how well students are understanding. Is there any crucial learning point that students have not grasped? This is unlikely to have emerged from a question posed orally to the whole class as there is no scope for eliciting 25 oral responses, nor would you want to! By using minute papers you can