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6 Active Learning Strategies to Energize Your Classroom

Active Learning Strategies

Learning can often feel stagnant and dull for students stuck in a passive learning environment. However, research shows that active learning strategies lead to deeper understanding and improved retention of information. This article outlines 6 lively learning strategies that will engage your students, encourage participation, and make learning fun. From quick warm-up activities to creative projects, the following 6 active learning strategies add energy and excitement to any lesson.

1. Brainstorming

The strategy aims at:

  • Collect as many ideas as possible from all students.
  • Freeing the ideas collected from judgment and cross-talk.
  • Going for quantity, not the quality of the ideas.
  • Separating the generation of ideas from dialogue and discussion.

Steps to implement the strategy in the classroom:

  1. Name a topic and offer a timeframe. Note: Brainstorming should not last more than 5 to 7 minutes.
  2. Allow about one minute for silent reflection, start the timer using a flip chart, and record the ideas.
  3. Encourage all ideas; remind students of the guidelines; everything goes; there are no right or wrong answers, no comments, no cross-talk, just ideas!

2. 30-Second Speech

The strategy aims at:

  • Allowing “think and process time” to students so that their thinking will be more organized and go deeper than a surface response.

Steps to implement the strategy in the classroom:

  1. Give students new information or content (maybe from reading, a video clip, a lecture, etc.)
  2. Give them the time to make sense of this new content.
  3. Pose a question to the class and ask them to “Plan a 30-second speech.”.
  4. Ask students to jot down thoughts or just quietly examine their thinking.
  5. Students work in pairs, and each student gives his/her 30-second speech to his/her partner.

3. 3-2-1

The strategy aims at:

  • Showing how deep the students’ learning is.

Steps to implement the strategy in the classroom:

Ask students to use a piece of paper to record the following three things:

  1. Three things that are clear regarding the day’s topic or concept;
  2. Two connections that they can make between the new concept and their prior knowledge or experience;
  3. One question/point that needs further clarification

Collect the pieces of paper as students leave the room and use the information to plan for the next day’s lesson and/or to differentiate instruction for students.

4. Dots in Quadrants

The strategy aims at:

  • Assessing the knowledge of a group.

Steps to implement the strategy in the classroom:

  1. A poster or piece of paper containing four quadrants is placed on the wall.
  2. The four quadrants are labeled: New Concept; Somewhat Familiar; Beginning Understanding; and Comfortable with the Concept.
  3. At the end of the lesson, ask students to give a dot of the same colour and place it in the appropriate quadrant.

Thus, the teacher has a snapshot of where the students are in terms of the day’s concept, topic, new vocabulary, or grammar rule.

5. Fan-N-Pick

The strategy aims at:

  • Engaging all students in the learning process.
  • Fostering positive interdependence, individual accountability, equal participation, and simultaneous interaction.
  • Introducing or reviewing a concept.
  • Encouraging analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.

Steps to implement the strategy in the classroom:

  1. Construct a set of cards for each group of four students.
  2. Write a question on each card for each group. An example of a question might be: How might the city we’ve been studying be different if it were located on the ocean? Or, which character in the story do you most identify with, and why?
  3. Student 1 in each group fans the cards and turns to the person next to him and says, Pick a Card, Pick Any Card, Student 2 picks a card and reads the question out loud. Student 3 answers the question, and Student 4 paraphrases the answer given by Student 3.

Cards are then rotated one person to the right, and the steps are repeated.

Fan-n-Pick encourages thinking skills, teambuilding, and listening and communication skills.

6. Gallery Walk

The strategy aims at:

  • Allowing students to view others’ thinking and works.
  • Sharpening students’ observation skills.
  • Clarifying students’ thinking.
  • Allowing movement & oxygen to the brain during the class!

Steps to implement the strategy in the classroom:

  1. Ask students (often in cooperative groups) to create a chart, construct a graph, create a poster, brainstorm a topic, or develop a graphic organizer.
  2. Ask each group to post their work in an area around the room.
  3. Tell students to do a “Gallery Walk” in the room, noticing the thinking of each group.
  4. Ask students to make comments and post them on sticky notes during the Gallery Walk or take notes for themselves as they travel around the room.


Implementing active learning strategies takes a bit more planning and preparation than traditional lectures, but the payoff is immense. Students will be engaged, enjoy the learning process and be more motivated to participate, develop critical thinking skills, and retain more information.

While every lesson may not call for an elaborate activity, mixing up your instructional methods using strategies like the ones above keeps students on their toes. Your classroom will be energized as students collaborate, move, discuss, and have fun with learning.

Thanks for reading

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