Active Learning Activities You Can Use in Your Classroom Now

Active Learning Activities You Can Use in Your Classroom Now

For a recent Futures Initiative event “Classrooms and Social Justice: Why Start with Pedagogy?” which was part of the University Worth Fighting For Series at the Graduate Center, CUNY, Futures Initiative Fellow Christina Katopodis developed a handout with Professor Cathy N. Davidson that details eight quick and easy activities you can use in your classroom today.

Here is a short list of activities you can do in 5 minutes or less:

Think-Pair-Share. This works best with index cards and a timer. (a) Ask a question (e.g., What was the single most provocative/disagreeable/brilliant/inspiring comment you read in this week’s assignment?) Give students 90 seconds (max.) to write out an answer on their card. (b) When the timer sounds, have students take 90 seconds to take turns sharing in pairs, one person reads her card while the other listens, and then the second reads her card and the other listens. In the same short time frame, they then decide what they will present to the group—they can merge, edit, or choose one or the other. When the timer sounds, they must have synthesized one comment. (c) Go around the room (if less than 40 students), and have one person from each pair read/share their comment with the group. Whatever you do next, this method ensures that everyone is involved, alert, and already thinking across a range of different ideas. If you have more than 40 students, you can create a Google Doc or use another online collaborative tool and have everyone record their comment. OR you can collect all the cards and structure the rest of your discussion by reading from cards you pick randomly.

Exit Tickets. You can do this with any size group, even in a lecture for 600 students, or use it to substitute for pop quizzes or taking attendance. At the end of each class, have students (using index cards or paper) write down one idea from the class that they can’t stop thinking about, that they wish to discuss further, that they disagree with, etc. (You can vary this each class). You can begin your next class drawing from some of these reflections. You can also save these and hand back their cards at the end of the semester when they’re working on their final paper or studying for their final exam.

The Entry Ticket. You can also begin your next class with an Entry Ticket on which each student writes the one idea or quotation that sticks with them most from the reading assignment. You can ask for volunteers to share or go around the room and ask everyone to share. This shows many things, including how we may think we are all reading the same text, but our attention and interests actually shape and select what we read, what we remember. Turning the classroom from a site in which authority is modeled and rewarded to one in which there is Total Participation—where each student has a voice, agency, active participation—is an important step to turning your classroom into a site of equality and activism, not passivity.

You can use these techniques in your classroom, in your office meetings, or in a lecture of 200+ people! Click on the PDF to find more active learning activities you might try.