Use this thinking strategy to help students generate questions, ideas, and examples, and to explore a central idea or topic. During brainstorming, students share any ideas that come to mind and record them without making judgments. When introducing a new topic, teachers can use brainstorming sessions to determine what students already know or wish to learn, and to provide direction for learning and reflection.
A choice board provides students with a choice of tasks to complete based on interest or learning style. The tasks offered help students learn a concept, skill, or strategy and an opportunity to demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways. The choice board tasks are designed using Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences Theory. Choice boards offer as few as three and up to nine options choices and as many as nine. Students may be directed to select one or more choices, depending on how this strategy is being used for learning.
This type of diagram illustrates the effects of a real or imaginary event, issue, problem, or trend. Consequence mapping is a way to get students thinking about the future. The development of a consequence map begins the process of interpreting and analyzing alternatives that arise in the decision-making process and then reflecting on the various potential outcomes.
The teacher gives clear explanations and instruction of the subject matter, and then works through the material with the students, breaking it down into simpler parts. After students understand the steps, they are given a problem to work through on their own.
An Exit Card provides a way for students to respond to questions posed at the end of a class or learning activity, in written, oral, or visual form. Writing Exit Cards requires each student to put their name on a card, respond to a question/prompt from the teacher, and submit it before leaving the classroom. Exit Cards allow the teacher to use the responses when planning further instruction and determining grouping and next steps.
This strategy may be used to help students make connections to prior learning, clarify their understanding of concepts, and/or reflect on their perspectives about a topic. Students are asked to pair with another student whose elbow is near one of their elbows. Partners then exchange ideas about an idea or question. Both partners should have an opportunity to share within the given time.
This strategy engages students in watching videos, reading information, or engaging in research or on-line discussions with peers at home in preparation for participation in student-centred activities during classroom instructional time. Students are able to explore topics in greater depth through meaningful discussions and activities and focus on developing critical and creative thinking skills as they tackle problems and collaborate to determine solutions. The approach fosters a more learner-centred experience during instructional time as students engage with each other and deepen their learning.
This strategy requires learners to move to the labeled corner of the room that best describes their response to a posed question. In each corner, learners with like responses work together to collect evidence and present an argument that supports their beliefs or proposed solutions. The Four Corners strategy checks student learning, actively engages students in physical activity, promotes their interaction, and presents them with challenging situations or questions that require critical thinking skills.
This activity invites students to make observations and record their thoughts about information or visual materials posted at stations around the room. Students remain at each station for only a few minutes, travelling in groups while making individual observations or responses. Follow-up activities can include sharing responses or observations with the whole group and posting all responses in a common area for students to review at a later time.
Graffiti Boards are a shared writing space where students record their comments and questions about a topic creating a record of students’ ideas and questions that can be referred to at a later point. This strategy may be used as a way to introduce a new topic, help students organize existing knowledge about that topic, or prepare for a class discussion or writing assignment. Students write their own response to the topic and respond to the questions and ideas that other students have written, drawing lines connecting their comments to those of other students. The ideas can then be used as the basis for an effective discussion about the topic.
IDEAL Decision-Making Model
This framework for decision-making includes five steps: I, Identify the problem; D, Describe all possible solutions; E, Evaluate the pros and cons of each solution; A, Act on the best solution; L, Learn from the choices.
In this activity students form two circles, each made up of an equal number of people, one circle within the other. Students in the inner circle face those in the outer circle and students partner with the person opposite them (i.e., each inner circle student pairs with an outer circle student). Students share their responses to a teacher’s prompt. The outer circle then moves one student to the left while the inner circle remains in place, thus creating new sets of partners. Pairs respond to a new prompt or again to the same prompt.
Jigsaw is a strategy that enables each learner of a “home” group to specialize in one aspect of a learning unit. Learners meet with members from other groups who have been assigned the same aspect. After mastering the material together, they return to their “home” groups and teach the material to their group members. This promotes learner accountability and cooperation in that each aspect is essential for completion of the activity.
KWL charts are graphic organizers that help students organize information throughout the cycle of learning about a concept. They can be used to engage students in setting their direction for learning, engage them in a new topic, or determine what they already know about a topic. Students begin by writing what they Know about a topic or concept before they begin their exploration and What they want to know about the topic. Throughout the learning and/or at the conclusion of their exploration, students record what they have Learned about the concept. The completed chart may then be used to generate further learning or as an assessment of student learning.
This chart is an extended version of a KWL Chart in which students first identify what they Know about a topic and what they Want to know about the topic. Before beginning their learning or investigation, students also consider How they will find out more about their topic by identifying where they might begin their research or whom they might engage to learn about their topic. As with a KWL Chart, throughout the learning and/or at the conclusion of their exploration students record what they have Learned about the concept. In addition, students reflect on Questions they may still have about their topic, which may then be used to prompt a new cycle of learning.
Creating Mind Maps allows students to explore ideas, facts, components of, and relationships to a topic that is written in the centre of the map. Facts, ideas, or statements are written around the central circle, branching outwards or connecting to other statements or ideas. Colours can be used for emphasis and effect or to illustrate connections. This strategy is also known as a “Porcupine” or “Spider’s Web”.
Open Space Technology (OST)
This method for organizing a meeting or conference can be adapted to the classroom as a way to organize learning. Participants are invited to focus on a specific concept or topic of interest to them. OST is participant driven and fosters student leadership and critical and creative thinking by inviting students to take responsibility for their learning. Participants create the agenda, which comprises topics for discussion that students have selected within a given focus. Students choose to engage in small-group discussion with students who are interested in the same topic. They take responsibility for moderating the discussions, and at the end of each session participants create a record of their discussion or collective work.
This strategy allows students to ask questions at any time during a class. The teacher writes Parking Lot at the top of a piece of flip chart paper and posts it somewhere in the room for easy access by students. Students can write down any question they may have during the class on sticky notes and post them in the “parking lot”. The teacher chooses a time at which questions can be addressed. This technique allows for anonymity in asking questions, which may make students more comfortable about posing them.
This collaborative learning strategy requires students to work first alone and then together, around a single piece of paper, to simultaneously involve all members of the group. The teacher poses a question or topic. Students initially brainstorm their own ideas about it on their section of the paper. Next, students confer and place the most common or relevant answers in the middle section of the paper. By combining personal writing with dialogue, this activity ensures accountability and participation by all students.
This strategy may also be referred to as a Popcorn Share and is a collaborative way for students to share their ideas with each other. Students are invited to share their ideas by “popping up” from their seat to give their answer or make a comment about an idea or concept. When done speaking, the student sits down signalling for other students to pop up and share. There is no set order for student sharing. Students may offer a different answer or perspective or build on each other’s answers or ideas.
Teachers may use this strategy to have students review information with each other or make connections to prior learning by asking and answering questions. Students use cards that contain questions, terms, or concepts on one side and answers or definitions on the other side. Students pair up and take turns quizzing their partner about the question or concept on their card, acknowledging when their partner answers the question correctly or helping their partner understand the correct answer. After quizzing each other, students trade cards and pair up with new partners.
A RAN (Reading and Analyzing Non-fiction) Chart is a graphic organizer that students can use to organize their thoughts and learning as they work through a topic or question. To start, students record their prior knowledge and wonderings they have about the topic or question. As they progress through the stage of gathering and analyzing information, students confirm what they knew, record any misconceptions that were part of their prior knowledge, and add new knowledge they gained.
In this teaching strategy, students assume the role of a given character. Role Play is an active and engaging technique that allows students to explore and discover multiple perspectives.
This strategy may be used to facilitate group discussions where everyone has equal opportunity to participate in the discussion. Students are situated around a table participating in a discussion in which they might generate ideas on a specific topic or question or respond to a question, topic, or issue. One student is elected to lead or facilitate the discussion. Students take turns voicing their opinion on the question, topic, or issue. The order in which students speak is determined by the facilitator and may be in a clockwise or counterclockwise direction or in any order established by the facilitator. Students actively listen when others are speaking and may not interrupt the speaker. Students may also be assigned the task of recording each student’s contribution to the group discussion for feedback or to check that all students have had the opportunity to contribute to the group.
In this small-group brainstorming activity, students take turns suggesting answers or solutions to an open-ended problem. This can be done verbally or by recording responses and ideas on a sheet of paper that is passed around from person to person.
See, Think, Wonder Chart
This chart consists of a box with a central image or concept and three columns labeled See, Think, and Wonder. Students first observe the image or the details that are immediately apparent to them about the concept. They then capture their thinking and wonderings about the image or concept by recording ideas in the columns. This chart may be used to focus on one image or concept or a series of images or concepts, with students circulating through each image/concept to record what they see, think, and wonder.
This simple teaching and learning tool consists of using two perpendicular, intersecting lines to form a letter T. Students use the chart to examine two facets of a topic, idea, object, situation, etc. by recording their ideas on opposite sides of the chart in order to make a comparison (e.g., pros and cons, facts versus myths).
Think Aloud is a useful strategy to model critical thinking or how to use a process or model. The teacher models their thinking out loud while thinking or while using a learning process. This strategy is particularly useful to help students focus on developing their critical thinking, learn a difficult concept, skill, or strategy, or reinforce learning. Students can also use Think Aloud as they learn a skill individually, work with a peer, or work with the teacher for assessment purposes.
Think Pair Share
This strategy provides students with the opportunity to process their thoughts and then check their ideas with a partner before, during, and/or after instruction. It involves three steps for students:
- Think for a moment, read a piece of text, or write about an idea or concept.
- In a Pair, discuss the thinking, reading, or writing and determine what to share with a larger group.
- Share ideas or responses with a larger group.
This strategy is a quick way for a teacher to gauge how confident students are in learning the concepts in an activity. The teacher asks students to give a thumbs-up if they are feeling confident with the material or a thumbs-down if they are not yet confident or are struggling with the material. Students can also place their thumb sideways to indicate that they are confident with some of the material but not all of it. The teacher can use the results of the Thumbs Up to adjust the pace of the activity and/or allocate more or less time to learning a concept.
Students can use a Venn diagram to compare the similarities and differences between two related concepts, objects, or ideas. Students draw two (or sometimes three) overlapping circles. Each circle is labelled with one of the concepts, objects, or ideas. Unique facts or attributes are written in the part of the circles that do not overlap, while facts or attributes common to the topic in question are written in the overlapping area of the circles.