Strategic Teaching Strategies for Active Learning


The following list of teaching strategies can be very helpful in planning a lesson where constant formative assessment is used to determine student mastery of content while teaching. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but there should be enough here to get you going in a new direction!


Before Strategies
  • MEGA LISTENERS
    • Pick one or two students before a passage is read or before a topic is discussed....they know that when you are finished, they will have to summarize the key points
  • QUICK WRITE
    • Write a prediction about text
    • Write a summary of text
  • ABC BRAINSTORMING
    • Individually list as many words as possible associated with topic read in alphabetical order
    • Assign each student a letter of the alphabet
    • Each student writes a word that begins with his assigned letter about the topic in alphabetical order on chart to make a class summary
  • ANTICIPATION GUIDE
    • Mark each statement before reading text as agree with or disagree
    • Mark each statement after reading text to confirm or correct predictions
  • FIVE WORD PREDICTION
    • Use only five words to make a prediction about text
    • Use those five words to write a summary paragraph
  • TABLE TALK
o Write a thought provoking statement or question related to the subject of the upcoming lesson on the chalkboard.
o Students have two minutes to read the topic, reflect, and write a response.
o Students have three minutes to share their response with a partner, reflect, and write a response to their partner’s statement.
o Pairs combine to form small groups of 4-6 students. Responses are shared within the group and one response is chosen to share with the whole class.
  • PREREADING PLAN
    • Provide students with a cue word or idea to stimulate thinking about a topic.
    • Have students brainstorm words or concepts related to the topic. Write all ideas.
    • After all the words and ideas are listed, go back to each word and ask the contributor why he or she suggested the word. Clarify ideas or elaborate on concepts.
    • Read the text.
    • After reading, revisit the original list of words and revise if necessary.
  • WORD SPLASH
    • Provide Select seven to ten meaningful words of phrases from the reading selection. Be sure to include not only similar words that will indicate the subject of the selection but also some of the words and phrases that seem contradictory to the others.
    • Give each student a sheet and ask him/her to spend a little time thinking about what kind of story or article could include all of these words or phrases.
    • Ask students to form small groups of three to five (or you can assign them to groups). In their groups, they should decide what the story will be about. They should also create a narrative or an explanation that will include all of the words or phrases.
    • Ask each group to share their narrative or explanation. As they listen, students should look for common elements.
    • Ask student to list the common elements they heard and list these elements on the board (or you could list them if students have trouble doing this).
    • Individually, students now read a selection or an excerpt.
    • In small groups or as a whole class, discuss the similarities and differences between the narratives they constructed prior to reading the selection, and the actual selection. It is very important to discuss the reasons for the differences. This discussion can highlight the number of possible approaches authors have available to them when deciding to write about a particular subject. Students' constructions may be perfectly logical without being exactly the same as the story or explanation the author constructed.
  • SEMANTIC MAPS
    • Select the main idea or topic of the passage; write it on a chart, overhead, or chalkboard; and put a circle around it.
    • Have students brainstorm subtopics related to the topic. Use lines to connect to the main topic.
    • Have students brainstorm specific vocabulary or ideas related to each subtopic. Record these ideas beneath each subtopic.
    • Read the text and revise the Semantic Map to reflect new knowledge.


  • SNOWBALL FIGHT
o Ask students to respond in writing to a quote, video clip, surprising fact or opinion.
o Students should ball their papers up and toss them to other students.
o Students will un-wad the papers they have been tossed and respond to the other student’s response.
o Repeat the process as many times a desired.
o The last student to respond must choose one statement to share that stands out to him as the most significant.
  • LIST-GROUP-LABEL
o Write a cue word on the board or overhead. o Have students brainstorm words or concepts related to the topic. Write down all ideas. o Lead a discussion about whether any words should be eliminated, if so, why? o Divide the class into groups of three or four. Have groups cluster the words and give each cluster a descriptive term. o Have groups share their clusters and give reasons for their choices. o Have students read the text. Afterward, have students revisit their clusters and modify, if necessary.
· CORNERS
o Pose an open-ended question to students and offer them multiple answers. o Give students time to think about each option; then, have them move to a corner of the room that has been designated as the meeting place for those who hold the same opinion. o In the meeting places, have students discuss why they think the option they chose is the best one. If groups are large, you may divide them into smaller groups and have multiple groups discuss an opinion. o After a set amount of time, have groups share their reasons for choosing each option.
· FRAME OF REFERENCE
o Draw an oval (represents the picture in the frame) in the middle of a piece of chart paper or on the board. o Place a key word or topic inside the oval. o Draw a larger oval around your “picture” to represent the “mat” area. o Ask students to give you words or phrases that come to mind when they think of the pictured word and record responses in the “mat” area. o In the remaining area (or draw a rectangle around the two ovals on the board to represent the frame), ask students to tell you how they came to know their responses and record the information in the “frame”.
· PReP
o Prompt students’ initial associations with a new concept by asking students to say what comes to mind when they hear the key term or new concept. o As students respond, the teacher records their associations (without making any comments). o Next the teacher asks each respondent to reflect on their association by asking students to explain their responses. o Last, students are asked to add any new ideas that have come to mind after hearing others’ ideas.

During Strategies
  • X MARKS THE SPOT
    • Use X to mark important information; Mark ? if you don’t understand (You can change marks to meet the your needs)
    • If using textbook, use Post It Notes to record marks
  • THINK ALOUD
    • Read short passage; think about it; share thinking with partner; record thinking
    • Repeat above
  • CHUNK
    • Read a short passage; discuss in small groups or whole class
    • Repeat above
  • TALK TO THE TEXT
    • make notes, questions, comments in the margin
  • HOT ROD [Hand over text; retell on demand]
    • This strategy pairs students to read, talk, and listen during reading.
    • One student orally reads a paragraph as the other student follows along silently.
    • Then the students cover the text with their hands while the listener retells what the reader’s paragraph said.
    • Students swap roles for the next paragraph and continue this pattern until all of the assigned passage has been read and retold.
  • SAY SOMETHING
o Choose a text for the students to read and have them work in pairs.
o Designate a stopping point for reading.
o Have students read to the stopping point and then “say something” about the text to their partner.
o Allow pairs to choose the next stopping point. Students repeat steps 3 and 4 until they finish reading the text.
  • CODING THE TEXT
o Using a read-aloud and thinking aloud, model for the students examples of making connections. These may include text-self, text-text, or text-world connections.
o While reading aloud, demonstrate how to code a section of text that elicits a connection by using a sticky note, a code (T-S = text-self, T-T = text-text, T-W = text-world), and a few words to describe the connection.
o Have the students work in small groups to read a short text and code the text. Have them share their ideas with the class.
o Encourage the students to code the text using sticky notes to record their ideas and use these as a basis of small and large group discussions.
  • INSERT
Engage in direct instruction and think aloud to teach the INSERT method.
Introduce a topic and ask students to brainstorm lists of what they already know about it.
Teach students the following modified notation system:
If an idea: Put this notation in the margin:
o confirms what you thought √ Insert a checkmark
o contradicts what you thought -- Insert a minus sign
o is new to you + Insert a plus sign
o confuses you ? Insert a question mark
Encourage students to use the notation system in the margins of the informational text or on sticky notes as they read various parts of the text. For example, students place a checkmark (√) in the margin if the information they are reading verifies what is on the brainstorm list; they place a plus sign (+) if the information is new to them – not on their list; they place a minus sign (--) if the information contradicts or disproves information on the brainstorm list; they place a question mark (?) if the information is confusing.
After the students finish reading and inserting symbols, use the information as the basis of discussion, to seek more information, to answer questions, or to raise new questions.
  • JOT CHART
    • Divide students into groups.
    • Have students quickly skim the text to locate main ideas (subheadings) and fill in the main idea column on the jot chart.
    • Within each group, assign each student a main idea on which to collect supporting details.
    • Groups complete their jot charts by filling in details provided by group members.
  • 3-2-1
    • List 3 details, 2 questions, 1 connection
  • MAGNET SUMMARY
    • On the unlined side of the index card, the student writes 3 to 5 words that they are drawn to as they read the text.
    • The student turns to the lined side of the card and writes a summary of the entire text using the words he has chosen in the summary. The student underlines his/her words as he/she uses them.
  • READ-TALK-WRITE
    • Students read a chunk of material for a specified time.
    • Pair up students. One student should tell his/her partner as much as can be remembered without looking at the text and must keep talking for one minute. If he/she runs out of things to say, information can be repeated. Call time at the end of one minute and reverse the process. The second student may state the same information, but should try to say it in a different way, if possible. The listening partner needs to focus attentively without interrupting until it is his or her turn to talk.
    • Each student writes what he or she knows about this passage. After writing as much as possible, students may reread the passage to check details.
    • Repeat the process with the next chunk of text.
  • KEY WORDS
    • Use a highlighter to mark important words in passage
    • If using textbook, list key words
    • Turn and talk to another student about the words chosen
  • THINK-PAIR-SHARE
o The teacher provokes students' thinking with a question or prompt or observation. The students should take a few moments (probably not minutes) just to THINK about the question.
o Using designated partners, nearby neighbors, or a desk-mate, students PAIR up to talk about the answer each came up with. They compare their mental or written notes and identify the answers they think are best, most convincing, or most unique.
o After students talk in pairs for a few moments (again, usually not minutes), the teacher calls for pairs to SHARE their thinking with the rest of the class. She can do this by going around in round-robin fashion, calling on each pair; or she can take answers as they are called out (or as hands are raised). Often, the teacher or a designated helper will record these responses on the board or on the overhead.
  • TURN AND TALK
    • Discuss passage read with small group or a partner
    • Share with class information that you heard (not what you said) during discussion with partner or small group
  • MARGIN NOTES
    • Use Post It Notes to write notes about important information as one reads
  • MEGA LISTENERS
    • Pick one or two students before a passage is read or before a topic is discussed....they know that when you are finished, they will have to summarize the key points

After Strategies
  • TURN AND TALK
    • Discuss passage read with small group or a partner
    • Share with class information that you heard (not what you said) during discussion with partner or small group
  • NUTSHELL
    • Write definition of a vocabulary word
  • MARGIN NOTES
    • Use Post It Notes to write notes about important information as one reads
  • RETELL
    • Read a passage and tell a partner the important points
  • SAVE THE LAST WORD FOR ME
    • Have students read a designated text.
    • After reading have them complete an index card with the following information:
      • Side 1: Students select an idea, phrase, quote, concept, fact, etc. from the text that evokes a response. It can be something new, something that confirms previous ideas, something they disagree with, etc. Students write their selection on side 1 and indicate the page number where it can be found in the text.
      • Side 2: Students write their reaction to what they wrote on side 1.
    • Students gather in small groups to discuss their information.
    • Students discuss using the following procedure: A student reads side 1 of his card; each student in the group responds to the information shared. The student who authored the card gets the last word by sharing side 2 of his card. The process is repeated until everyone in the group has shared.
  • DISCUSSION WEB
    • This strategy / graphic organizer promotes whole-group investigation after a passage has been read.
    • A question that prompts students to make a judgment and evaluate action/s from the passage is placed in an oval.
    • Then, on both sides of the oval, vertical boxes are drawn and labeled such as “pro” and “con,” or “yes” and “no.” Alternating between the two opposing positions, arguments are made for each perspective. Their comments are placed in appropriate sections of the vertical columns.
    • After all arguments have been offered, the group comes to consensus about a resolution to the question.
  • JOURNAL RESPONSES
o Provide students with a journal or a system for keeping their responses.
o Show students examples of good responses to text. Help students identify aspects of thoughtful reading responses.
o Read a portion of text out loud and think through a thoughtful response. Discuss with students why it was thoughtful and not shallow.
o Read another portion of text aloud and have students write a thoughtful response. Share in groups.
o For independent reading, have students write the date and the title of the text or chapter at the top of the page or in the left margin.
o After reading a text, or listening to one, use Journal Responses as one of many methods students use to respond to what they read. Journal Responses can include reactions, questions, wonderings, predictions, connections, or feelings.
o Encourage students to share responses in groups or with the whole class.
Example: Journal Response prompts:
· What was important in the chapter? How do you know?
· What is something new you learned? Explain.
· What connection(s) did you make? Explain.
  • PAIRED SUMMARIZING
o Pairs of students read a selection and then each writes a retelling. They may refer back to the text to help cue their memory, but they should not write while they are looking back.
o When the retellings are completed, the partners trade papers and read each other’s work. Then each writes a summary of the other partner’s paper.
o The pairs of students compare or contrast their summaries. The discussion should focus on
 articulating what each reader understands,
 identifying what they collectively cannot come to understand, and
 formulating clarification questions for classmates and the teacher.
o Share understandings and questions in a whole-class or large group discussion.
  • GRAPHIC ORGANIZERS
    • Graphic organizers can be used to record and structure information
  • QUADRANT CARDS
o Divide a sheet of paper into four parts.
o List the word to be learned in the top left quadrant.
o Write a definition and or synonym in the top right quadrant.
o Write associations for the word in the bottom left quadrant.
o Write antonyms or draw an illustration in the bottom right corner.
  • GIST
o Assign students to create a summary of a short passage or chunk of a passage using exactly 20 words. o Students may have to revise several times in order to use exactly 20 words.
  • ONE-PAGER
o Assign students to look back through previously read text.o Students are to draw an image that is appropriate to the text. They may use an image found in the text. o Students choose five words from the text and place them anywhere they think appropriate on the page. Key words should actually appear in the text and have power and meaning. o Students choose two statements from the text they feel is important and write them on the bottom of the page. o Students must then answer the following: how do the image, words, and statements relate to each other? What do they tell you about the text? o Students end by creating a theme that expresses the meaning of their page.
  • MAGNET SUMMARY
    • On the unlined side of the index card, the student writes 3 to 5 words that they are drawn to as they read the text.
    • The student turns to the lined side of the card and writes a summary of the entire text using the words he has chosen in the summary. The student underlines his/her words as he/she uses them.
  • EXIT CARDS
    • Select an appropriate stem or prompt and provide students time to reflect on the lesson and write their responses. (The stem or prompt will be determined by the kind of thinking that you want students to do.)
    • Collect exit cards as students leave.
  • GRAFFITI
    • Write concepts from the lesson on large pieces of chart paper and pot them around the room.
    • Assign each student group a concept to summarize. Their summaries can be written on the paper in the form of words, phrases, or drawings.
    • After an allotted amount of time, have groups rotate, read the previous group’s response, and add anything they would like.
    • Repeat the process until each team has had time to respond to each concept.
    • Have the original teams explain their summary and ask other teams to explain their additions.
  • BIOPOEMS
    • On line one, students will write the first name of the person.
    • Line two, students will write four adjectives that describe the person.
    • Line three, name the relationship to the person.
    • Line four, name two or three things, people, or ideas that the person loved / was attracted to
    • Line five, name three feelings the person experienced
    • Line six, name three fears the person experienced.
    • Line seven, name accomplishments (who composed…, who discovered…, etc.)
    • Line eight, name two or three things the person wanted to see happen or wanted to experience.
    • Line nine, write his or her residence
    • Last name of person.
· FACTS IN FIVE
o Have students individually generate a list of the five most important concepts or facts the have found in a given text.
o Have students to move into a small group.
o Assign the students to share their list with their group and tell why they made each choice.
o After each member has shared his/her list, the group must discuss the concepts and come to a consensus of the group’s five most important facts.
o Have each group present its selections and reasons for each choice.
o Lead a discussion with the whole group on the content identified focusing on the similarities and differences in each list. If time is short, group list can be compiled on chart paper and posted in the room.
· 1-3-6
o Have students individually generate a list of the five most important concepts or facts the have found in a given text.
o Have students form a triad.
o Assign the students to share their list with their triad and tell why they made each choice.
o After each member has shared his/her list, the triad must discuss the concepts and come to a consensus of the group’s five most important facts.
o Next, have two triads join to make a group of six. The two triads must now share their lists and the reasons for each choice and come to a consensus.
o Have each group present its selections and reasons for each choice.
o Lead a discussion with the whole group on the content identified focusing on the similarities and differences in each list. If time is short, group list can be compiled on chart paper and posted in the room.