Five Cool Strategies!

Hey, all! In need of a new strategy to spice up a lesson? Check out the ideas below.

Strategy 1: Carousel

Purpose: to promote deeper discussions and collaborative reasoning while engaging in content, critiquing work, and working through multiple levels of DOK


  1. Post different multi-step problems or complex questions around the room.
  2. Divide students into small groups, and each group goes to a different problem/question and begins solving/answering.
  3. Time is called shortly after students begin working, and teams move to the next station where another group has begun to answer a different question.
  4. Each group discusses what they see in their peers’ work and decides if the last group was or was not correct up to that point.
  5. They continue the task if it is correct or make corrections if not.
  6. Depending on the complexity of the problem and the time it takes to completely solve/answer, you may repeat steps 3-5 again.
  7. In the last round, groups develop a justification for the correct solution/answer.

Click here for a video example.

Strategy 2: Ongoing Conversations

Purpose:A simple system for getting every student in the room to talk with every other student, a way of tracking conversations over time so that students had a reason to reach out to people they never interacted with, and have more meaningful, content-based discussions with each other.”


  1. Each student is given a conversation tracker, a chart where they keep track of the conversations they’ve had with other students in the class.
  2. Students are to have conversations with a minimum number of other students (set by the teacher—about 75 percent of the class) over a predetermined period of time (3 weeks, over the course of the next unit, etc.). These conversations are based on topics provided by the teacher, but some can be structured with certain questions to discuss and some can be more informal (“Take five minutes and have an ongoing conversation with someone about what you’re struggling with the most in this unit.”)
  3. On their tracker, students record the name of the person they talked to, the date of their conversation, and a one-line summary of what they talked about.
  4. Once a pair of students has had a conversation, they may not return to each other until after they have reached the minimum number of unique conversations set by the teacher.

Strategy 3: Word Splash

Purpose: a text-based assessment strategy that asks students to make connections using key vocabulary terms/concepts and could be used as a pre, post, or self-assessment. It allows the teacher to easily determine common misconceptions the class has about the topic and helps the teacher to decide on which terms to pre-teach and on which terms to focus.


  1. Using this document or one like it, present students with several new (and perhaps unfamiliar) vocabulary words and phrases randomly across the page.
  2. On the top of the page, provide students with the topic of the unit of study. (For a twist on this strategy, you could first have them work in groups to guess the topic before revealing it.)
  3. On the bottom of the page, students answer the question, “What do you know about __(topic)__? Answer this question using some or all of these words, making connections among them.”
  4. After writing, students can then turn in their work or share in their groups.

Strategy 4: Nine Squares

Purpose: Analyze a text or image to determine facts/details, make inferences, and draw conclusions


  1. Students read a text or view a visual.
  2. Students analyze the text or visual and write the following
    1. 5 facts/details – Main ideas? Facts you found most interesting? (What does it say or what do you see?)
    2. 2 inferences (What does it mean?)
    3. 2 valid conclusions (Why does it matter?)
  3. Students write their facts/details, inferences, and conclusions on a handout like this.
  4. Students cut out their nine squares and trade with another student, sorting the partner’s cards into facts, inferences, and conclusions.
  5. Students compare/contrast facts/details, inferences, and conclusions.
  6. Teacher sees and hears the students’ thinking and clarifies/verifies as appropriate.

Strategy 5: Idea Shuffle

Purpose: to extend thinking by having students generate, share, and rate ideas, responses, or answers to a specific question or task


  1. Teacher presents the class with 4-5 different questions
  2. Students choose one of the questions and write a response to it on a note card. They do not put their names on the note card.
  3. IDEA SHUFFLE: (three rounds so that each student reads and rates three different cards)
    1. Trade: Students stand up and mix around the room, trading cards at least five times.
    2. Read: Students carefully read the card they have.
    3. Rate: Students evaluate the response by writing a rating on the back of the card. Students could use a rating system based on a rubric, student-generated success criteria, or something simple like the one below:
      1. 3 = excellent (well-written, great thinking!)
      2. 2= good (makes sense, good thinking)
      3. 1 = getting here (good start but needs a little more work)
  4. After the third round of IDEA SHUFFLE, ask students to add up the ratings on the card they have.
  5. Students read out the cards that scored a certain number of points (8-9 using the rating system above), so students can hear good examples. (This could also be a discussion about why that one got such high ratings.)

Thanks to The Cult of Pedagogy podcast, Karin Hess’s book A Local Assessment Toolkit, and Lean4Ward’s instructional strategies playlist for these ideas.

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