Active Learning Activities

Overview

MIT TEALActive learning activities can be incorporated in various classrooms as well as in an online environment.  Presented in each section are activities, organized by instructional approaches, which can be adapted into many classroom types:

  • Reflection Activities
  • Polling Activities
  • Group Activities
  • Reasoning Activities
  • Instructional Activities

Each instructional approach section below shares suggested active learning activities that are compatible with specific active learning classroom types (TASLO):

  • T: TEAL (Technology Enabled Active Learning)
  • A: Active Learning 
  • S: Suitable for Active Learning 
  • L: Lecture
  • O: Online

Expand each section to view active learning activities, explanation of those activities and examples to reference.

In these types of activities, lower levels of Blooms Taxonomy (level Remember to level Apply) are practiced. 

Minute Papers

Use Minute Papers to ask questions about the lecture content. These can be collected and used as a micro-quiz or for attendance purposes. One possibility is the “muddiest point” question, where students have to write about what they understood the least. This gives the instructor a better understanding of what students are struggling with, and can set up review lectures the following week.  Activity is suitable for all classroom settings. 

Short Problems

Create time for students to work individually (or in small groups) on problems projected on the screen or written on the board.  Activity is suitable for all lecture style classrooms. 

Think-Pair-Share

Students individually think about a particular question, scenario, or problem. Pair students to discuss their ideas or answers. Have students discuss thier findings with the whole class. Activity is suitable for all lecture style classrooms.

In these types of activities, lower levels of Blooms Taxonomy (level Remember to level Apply) are practiced. 

Clicker Questions

Ask questions with clickers. Questions should be thought-provoking and relevant to a single concept. Combine with Think-Pair-Share. A great way to see if students are understanding the material covered or what you may have missed. 

Fill-in-the-Blanks

Allow students to download advance notes that include significant blanks, so students have to listen intently and mentally engage the material. These notesshould be more than the PowerPoint slides you use to guide your lecture.

Interactive Learning Games

Ask students to use their mobile devices for anonymous polling or to participate in an interactive game. Kahoot (https://kahoot.com/) is an interactive tool that easily engages students to create, share and play fun learning games or trivia quizzes. 

In these types of activities, lower levels of Blooms Taxonomy (level Analyze to level Create) are practiced. 

Fish Bowl

Purpose

Fishbowl discussion activity encourages students to explain, demonstrate and defend their knowledge of a specific topic to their peers.  

Fishbowl observers activity advocate students to listen, reflect and examine their peers understanding of the specific topic.

All students gain viewpoints of their peers, active  listening skills, awareness of theory and the ability to share verbally

Strategy

Break students into two groups, group 1 with a few students and group 2 with the remaining students. 

Group 1, the fishbowl discussers, are in the inner circle.  Have students discuss, debate or share expertise in the field for a specific timeframe.

Group 2, are the observers of group 1.  Have students listen, take notes, write a response or illustrate what they have observed. 

Once the fishbowl discusion is over, have the students in group 2 share their feedback and observations to group 1.

During the activity instructors observe and listen to both groups.  Instructors provide feedback to both groups once all students have completed the activty.

 

 

Poster and Gallery Walk 

Purpose

Strategy

add ascreens in TEAL room...

Give groups of students an assignment that they need to work on together and present their ideas on a screen. Once they have completed their screen poster, have them display it, much like at a scientific poster session. One of their group will stay with the poster and help to explain it as the class circulates to look at all of the posters. Students take turns standing by their poster so that each of them have the chance to visit the other groups’ posters.  

 

Buzz Groups

Purpose

Buzz Group activity generally takes place during a lecture timeframe to encourage student discussion.  Students in each group wiill have to explain, demonstrate or problem solve the specific topic with thier peers.

Buzz Group activity promotes students to listen, reflect and examine their peers understanding of the specific topic.

All students gain viewpoints of their peers, active  listening skills, awareness of theory and the ability to share verbally.

Strategy

Break class into small groups consisting of three to four students.

Each group discusses the topic or guidied questions for a under five minutes to generate arguments, answers, or ideas. 

Each small group then shares one idea, answer, or argument with the class. Record ideas on whiteboard.

Jigsaw

Purpose

Strategy

name: jigsaw groups and expert groups

A general topic is divided into smaller, interrelated pieces; each member of a team is assigned to become an expert on (or read about) a single part. Team members can meet with “expert groups” - counterparts from other teams to discuss their corresponding piece. Members come back together in original groups to teach the other members their part of the topic. Use of whiteboards or shared screens can be helpful. 

 

 

In these types of activities, lower levels of Blooms Taxonomy (level Understand to level Evaluate) are practiced. 

Four Corners

How it works: The teacher displays the question prominently for all to consider. Each corner of the classroom is assigned one claim, also prominently displayed. Students are asked to go to the corner of the classroom that has the claim they agree with most. If they think more than one answer is correct, they should just pick one of the corners they agree with. If they don’t agree with any claims, they should go to the middle of the room. Once in their corners, students should discuss with others why they chose that corner to help clarify their thinking. Have them share and record evidence that supports that claim and why the other claims are not supported. Optional: have them visit the other corners to see what others thought about the ideas and the evidence they put forth. 

Post-It Parade

Students are provided with a question or prompt for which they need to generate ideas, solutions, etc. Give each student a few post-its, and have them write 1 idea per post-it. Students post on the board or wall, in logical groupings where possible. 

Drawing Concepts

Ask students to draw a picture, graphic, or chart of a concept from the lecture, using no words but illustrating comprehension.

 

Debate

 

 

In these types of activities, lower levels of Blooms Taxonomy (level Remember to level Apply) are practiced. 

Socratic Questioning

Instead of lectures, ask students questions about the content  in a way that guides the conversation toward desired learning outcome.  

Video Commentaries / Animated Narratives

Students talk through a completed whiteboard exercise on video; or record the

process and flow by assembling still shots made during the session into a video,

then narrate.

Social Annotation of Text

Break students into groups of 3-4.  Select a text for the groups to annotate.  Select a platform for performing the social annotation, such as https://web.hypothes.is 

Have at least one student from each group bring a computer to class (ideally, all students would have access to a computer). In small groups, have students annotate the text. Encourage them to reply to each other’s posts as well. 

Group Text Reading 

Select a difficult text or passage. Break the large text up into 1-2 paragraph sections. Break students up into groups of 2-4. Give each group of students a different section of the text. 

Give the students 15 minutes to read through and discuss their section of the text. Consider giving students guiding questions such as: What is happening in this section? What is the important take-away point? What might be important for me to know later? 

Bring the class back together. Each group (starting with the first part of the text) presents their section to the class. 

As students present, the instructor should write/draw on the board, correct and add to student responses, and provide examples as needed in order to help tie the concepts together. 

Active Learning Activities by Room Type (TASLO)

TEAL

Active Learning Classroom 

Suitable for Active Learning        

Lecture

Online / Hybrid  

Snowball Groups

Jigsaw

Post-it-Parade

Reflection

Peer Review

Prokect-based Jigsaws

Mind/Concept Mapping

Group Text Reading

Fish Bowl

Case Study

Display Think-Pair-Share

Reflection

Reflection

Scavenger Hunt

Reflection 

Posters with Screens

Fish Bowl

Fish Bowl

Video Vignettes

Discussion Forum

Four Corners

Scavenger Hunt

Scavenger Hunt

Minute Paper

Reflection

Reflection

Video Vignettes

Video Vignettes

Polling Questions

Fish Bowl

Fish Bowl

Minute Paper

Minute Paper

Drawing Concepts

Scavenger Hunt

Scavenger Hunt

Polling Questions

Polling Questions

Socratic Questioning

Video Vignettes

Video Vignettes

Drawing Concepts

Drawing Concepts

Think-Pair-Share

Minute Paper

Minute Paper

Socratic Questioning

Socratic Questioning

Buzz Groups

Polling Questions

Polling Questions

Think-Pair-Share

Think-Pair-Share

Pros and Cons

Drawing Concepts

Drawing Comcepts

Buzz Groups

Buzz Groups

Peer Review

Socratic Questioning

Socratic Questioning

Pros and Cons

Pros and Cons

 Index Card Pass

Think-Pair-Share

Think-Pair-Share

Peer Review

Peer Review

 

Buzz Groups

Buzz Groups

Index Card Pass

 Index Card Pass

 

Pros and Cons

Pros and Cons

 

 

 

Peer Review

Peer Review

 

 

 

 Index Card Pass

Index Card Pass