Pause for think-pair-share  Think-pair-share is a common active learning strategy. It can be a quick activity to get students thinking and can also be used as a way to engage students in a longer discussion. The steps are simple:

  1. Have students think about an answer to a question first. If you want to take this a step further, have them write down their answer. This ensures that students are engaged in their own thinking.
  2. Have students turn to the person next to them or find a partner in a fun way (e.g. talk to someone who is wearing the same color as you) and have them discuss the answer.
  3. Once pairs are done talking to one another, have them share out to the group. To make sure that students are listening to one another, you can have them share out what the other student said.

You can alter think-pair-share activities to include other modes of communication. A few examples of this include:

  • Think-draw-pair-share
  • Think-text-pair-share
  • Think-tweet-pair-share

The One Minute Paper – At the beginning, middle or end of the class, have students respond to two simple questions:

  1. What was the most important thing you learned in class today?
  2. What questions are still unanswered?

Collect these slips of paper to inform the next class and provide feedback to students who have remaining questions.

Brain Dump/Brain Drain  At the beginning, middle or end of class, have students close their notes and class texts and have them write down everything they learned or can remember. Once they finish, you can have students share their notes with one another and discuss commonalities and differences. Variations on this activity include:

  • Write two things – have students simply write down two things that they remember from lecture or class texts
  • Make it three – have students share their two things with a partner and then write down a new concept or idea from their partner’s notes on their own sheet

Free write – Once students have read a text, have them free-write their thoughts and questions for several minutes of sustained writing. Tell them to let their thoughts roam and not to focus on creating the perfect sentences. This is an exercise to get them thinking and where they can be playful with their thoughts. Once they finish, have them share with a small group or the larger class.

Low-stakes (or no stakes) quizzes that check for understanding  pose a problem or question that students may see on an exam or for an essay prompt during class. Have them try to answer it and then get feedback from peers or the instructor. These activities are best when they are not graded.

Have students teach each other  Research shows that students learn from explaining concepts and course material in their own words (Chi et. al., 1994). You can create these opportunities by having students teach each other concepts. You can do this in a variety of ways:

  • If you have a course text, break up some of the readings into manageable chunks and have students work in groups to identify the main points in the text. Then, have each student group share out on what they learned.
  • Have students pretend that they are teaching a specific grade level (e.g. high school, middle school) and create a lesson plan that discusses class concepts or material.