Students need structured opportunities to move and talk during the period in order to maintain their focus on the lesson. However, just giving students "fun" things to do that get them moving or talking does not guarantee that they will learn anything! Click here for a list of questions that will help you to troubleshoot the activities you choose to use: Transforming Worksheets Into Interactive Activities

Collaborative Learning

Cooperative Learning

(See also Classroom Management)


Independent Study

Interactive Activities

(a.k.a. Structured Opportunities to Move & Talk - See also: Transforming Worksheets Into Interactive Activities)

  • Affinity Diagram - Have students jot down key ideas or concerns about a given topic individually on separate Post-it notes, then ask them to work together to organize the ideas or concepts into meaningful sets. Have them label each set. (2-page handout) (Photo of a sample one in English)
  • Carrousel Walk (Carrousel Walk Image) - Post chart paper on the wall, write a question on each page, divide participants into groups, give a different colored marker to each group, send a group to each paper, give them one minute to jot down answers to the question, then have them move to the next page.
  • Contextual Inquiry - Have students read quotes, group them according to theme (like an affinity diagram), then create labels that identify the key idea or theme for each group. Students can also create headers for sets of labels.
  • Dialogues, Hear/Say - Student A is given part of a conversation, Student B has the other half. Student A speaks, Student B listens and then responds based on what Student A said.
  • Fishbowl - Students in the center discuss, students on the periphery observe and later evaluate and give feedback
  • Focus Groups - Divide the tasks into 4 pieces, send a "facilitator" to guide each small group through their piece of the task, pull the whole group back together for the finished product.
  • Four Corners - Provide a variety of readings or topics, form groups by favorites, participants discuss, each person shares the most valuable idea they are taking away from their group's discussion, no comments from others are allowed until everyone has spoken. You can also post 4 different concepts or theories (one in each corner) or Strongly Agree, Agree, Disagree, or Strongly Disagree in each corner and then ask students to "vote with their feet"
  • Grab-a-Word, Grab-a-Picture - Listen to, read, or watch a piece of "text" (an audio clip, statement, or video clip), and then from the center of the table, grab the word or image that you associate most closely with what you heard, read, or saw.
  • Human Graphing - Post a continuum of signs on the wall (Die for it, Convince Others, Strongly Agree, Agree, Neutral, Disagree, Strongly Disagree, Convince Others, Die for It). Make a statement. Students listen, decide what they think, then move to stand in front of the appropriate sign. The teacher then calls on various students to state their opinions, explain their opinions, and justify/defend their opinions. Possible content for statements include simple statements personal preferences (Pizza is delicious), statements about conceptual content from the unit (Funding should be increased/decreased for xyz.), proverbs (The early bird catches the worm.), statements about culture, statements lifted directly from a piece of text students are reading, opinion-judgments about characters in a text, etc.
  • Alternate version: Once participants have completed a multiple-choice survey, personality quiz, etc., and tallied their results, send them to different locations in the room based on their scores so that everyone can see the visual distribution/clustering of the people in the class.
  • I Have Never . . . . - Ask students to think of something they've never done, experienced, or seen that they think most other people in the room will have. Call on someone to share their sentence. Everyone who HAS experienced what was called out must trade seats. (This strategy could also be applied to content or used to group students.)
  • Information Gap - Pairs of students are given a task to complete, but each student in the pair only has half of the information and must use language to communicate the missing information to their partners. (See Richard Ladd's excellent ideas here: and here:
  • Inside/Outside Circles - Have participants make 2 circles facing one another. Give the people in the inside circle a question, and have the outside circle answer them.
  • Interviews - Student A is given a character, role, or perspective. Student B interviews Student A about the assigned topic and then reports to the group in some way (by creating an oral or written product).
  • Jigsaw - Divide students into groups (1, 2, 3, 4). Give each group a different set of paragraphs to read, a skill or process to learn, etc. When time is called, regroup students so that each new group is comprised of at least one member of the original groups (each group should have a 1, a 2, a 3, and a 4 in it) so that the representative of the original group can teach the information, skill, or process to the new mixed group. (Different Types of Jigsaws)
  • Learning Centers - The lesson plan for the day is divided into 3 or 4 tasks. Students are divided into an equivalent number of groups. Each group has a specified number of minutes to complete the task at their station, then the groups rotate through the stations throughout the period so that by the end of the class period, every student has had a chance to complete every task.
  • Mixers - Students are given a task and must circulate through the room, talking with their peers who have a portion of the information they need in order to complete the task.
  • Musical Chairs - Questions or tasks are distributed throughout the room. Culturally authentic music is played and students are allowed to circulate through the room until it stops. When the music stops, students must quickly stand in front of a question or task and complete it on their worksheet before the music starts again. There is one fewer questions than there are students, so the student who does not make it to a question must answer a question or complete a task for the whole group.
  • Popcorn - Stand and say one word that you associate with the topic.
  • Power Teaching (a.k.a. Reciprocal Teaching) - Skip past the little song and watch the way this teacher provides small chunks of input in ways that engage students voices, bodies, and minds. Consider the ways this might be adaptable to a world language classroom.

  • Power Teaching - Think about the ways the techniques demonstrated in this video could be adapted to a world language classroom in order to provide students with small, functional chunks of input in ways that help them to process and remember what they are learning. Notice how as the video continues, students copy the teachers' voice in their responses - chericem1 chericem1

  • Power Teaching (facilitated by an 11-year-old) - An 11-year-old girl facilitates a critical response discussion to a peer's paper using PowerTeaching techniques

  • Problem-solving - Students are given a logic problem to solve and must work together to accomplish it. (Conversar sin parar is a great resource for this.) (More Critical Thinking Activities for World Languages)
  • Role Play - Students are given a situation and must then act it out in front of the class.
  • Rotation Review - Prepare a series of prompts or questions--each on a different sheet of paper. Number each page prominently, then post them around the room. Ask students to number their papers one through however many questions you have (you'll need one question per student). Play music from the target culture. When the music stops, students must find a sheet of paper, stand in front of it, read the question or prompt, and respond in the space on their papers that corresponds to the number of the question. Repeat every 30 seconds or so until students have had experience with a suitable number of questions. Debrief at the end by asking students to report to the whole class on selected questions. (If you do not feel you have space for students to move, you can have them place their desks in a circle and pass the questions on your signal, rather than moving to the questions. Sometimes, I include a "rest your brain during this rotation" card, or some other silly activity like singing a song or hopping around the room while conjugating a verb or some other thing that students can anticipate enjoying.
  • Scavenger Hunt - Students are given a worksheet with a list of information or objects that they must find, questions they must answer, tasks they must complete, etc. Students must circulate throughout the classroom, hallway, or school (with the permission of the principal) in order to locate the information or objects, answer the questions, or complete the task.
  • Signature Search - Students are given a list of questions and must circulate through the room until they find someone who can answer the question. That person signs the worksheet, affirming that if called on, they can respond to the question.
  • Simulation - The teacher sets up a situation (such as a market or a trial) and students are assigned roles to play to simulate how the situation might play out.
  • Skit Sacks - Small groups of students are given sacks with pictures and props in them (or envelopes with key phrases in them) and must create a skit from the items in a specified period of time
  • Snowballs - Prepare question sheets (2 questions per page with lots of space between the two works well--but each question needs its own number). Ask students to number a blank sheet of paper with as many numbers as you have questions. (For this activity, it is not necessary to have a new question for each student.) Make multiple copies of each question sheet (but enough of each one so that you can distribute them evenly throughout the class). Cut the pages in half, and distribute two question sheets to each student as you would with any other worksheet. It does not matter which questions students get--even if they are the same. Ask students to crumple up the question sheets and hold one in each hand. When you give the signal, they are allowed to have a "snowball fight"--but cannot throw at people's faces. The other catch is that after they throw a snowball, they have to pick one up, uncrumple it, answer the question in the space on their paper with the corresponding number, then crumple it back up and throw it before finding a new "snowball" to investigate. If a question "melts" in their hands (i.e. they uncrumple it) that they have already had, they simply crumple it up, throw it, and try again. To keep students more on task, offer a prize to the one who completes the worksheet first (and correctly), or set a time limit.
  • Story Squares - Sketch something in each box related to the topic. Trade papers with a partner. Point to a square on your partner's paper that seems interesting to you and listen to them tell you the story. This activity works best with students who have had at least one year of language study. The teacher should remove the English labels for each box and replace them with labels in the target language before using this worksheet with students. This activity can be used multiple times (for example, the teacher can direct students to choose events from their childhood, from their summer vacation, from a holiday break, from Homecoming week at school, from their favorite television shows or movies, from a short story or novel that they are reading in class, etc.) - chericem1 chericem1
  • Surveys - Students (or the teacher) prepare a list of questions, circulate through the room surveying other students, and then report their results to the class (orally or as a chart or bar graph).
  • Test Question - Very similar to an exit ticket. Have students WRITE a fill in the blank, multiple choice, question based on the information from that day. Then, they share the question with 2 others students and attempt to answer them. Walk around and monitor to see if any are worthy to use in front of the class etc. You can collect these and see what it is the from the student perspective on what was most important that day. - cartierm cartierm
  • Think-Pair-Share - The teacher calls out a question. Students have 1 or 2 minutes to brainstorm an answer in the form of a list or a quick write, then they form pairs and share their answers (often working to come to a consensus).
  • Vote With Your Feet - (See Four Corners)
  • Whiteboards - Teacher calls out a question, students write the answer on their whiteboards and hold them up for the teacher to check (or students collaboratively determine the answer in a small group and then the team captain holds the answer) - chericem1 chericem1
  • Whiteboard Variation - To review I sometimes put students in a group of 3 or 4. Each student has a piece of plain white paper (whiteboards can be used but I find that they draw and use up my markers too quickly and pay less attention! :) I have each one in the group write a number fairly large (so I can see quickly walking by) in the upper right hand corner. Start with the #1, then 2, then 3 (and 4 if needed). If class has groups of 3 and one of 4, I have the 4th person be an alternate for the other numbers. Now, I give the challenge question for review. Everyone writes it down on their sheet. They then have time to check with their group and correct their answer if needed. I count down and say Stop (Paren) and call a number from 1 to 3 (or 4). I have the numbers in my hands on slips of paper and randomly pull one out. I call that number and check that student's answer in each group. If the student's answer is correct, the group gets a point, if not, they get no points. The thing is, each group is engaged because they do not know which number I will call and they want the correct answer so their group will get a point. The points are nothing than them getting a piece of starburst candy before the other groups get their piece (I don't believe in making kids feel badly about "losing" or getting fewer points so I give everyone candy...within a pecking order sometimes). - jcmoran jcmoran
  • Whole Brain Teaching (Key Principles) - In this 8 min. video, Chris Biffle outlines the key components of Whole Brain Teaching.

More Useful Protocols

Learning Centers

Structuring Discussions

  • Carrousel Brainstorming - Post large pieces of chart paper around the room. Put a topic or question at the top of each sheet. Divide students into groups and give each group's "recorder" a different colored marker. Give each group 30 seconds to 2 minutes to brainstorm a list of items or answers related to the topic or question. When the time ends, have each group move to a new piece of chart paper and continue the process.
  • Discussion Web - A way to scaffold student discussion (Discussion Web Graphic Organizer)
  • Fishbowl - An effective way of involving an entire class in a discussion (Alternative explanation)
  • Focus Questions - Give each small group a list of questions and ask them to choose at least 3 to discuss.
  • Ignite - A series of presentations about topics of personal passion that are 5 minutes long, accompanied by 20 slides
  • Jigsaw - Divide students into groups (1, 2, 3, 4). Give each group a different set of paragraphs to read, a skill or process to learn, etc. When time is called, regroup students so that each new group is comprised of at least one member of the original groups (each group should have a 1, a 2, a 3, and a 4 in it) so that the representative of the original group can teach the information, skill, or process to the new mixed group.
  • Key Ideas - Ask students to identify 3-7 sentences containing key ideas regarding the topic of study.
  • Key Words - Ask students to extract 3-7 key words that summarize the topic of study and devise a graphic organizer that will help others remember them.
  • Knowledge CafĂ©
  • Prioritization - Give each student a red dot, a green or blue dot, and a yellow dot or Post-it flag. Post a list of ideas, topics, or activities on chart paper around the room and have students "vote" on the topics using their dots. (Red dots=high priority, green/blue dots=moderate priority, yellow dots = low priority). Have students "defend" their choices or attempt to come to consensus on the choices.
  • Problem-solving Activity - Tips, techniques, and resources for conducting oral problem-solving activities with students that are thematically related to the curriculum
  • Read & Retell - Give students something to read, then have them retell it to a partner, adding a personal experience or connection in the process.
  • Reader, Writer, Reporter - One student reads the paragraph or text, another student records the group's answers about the text, a third student reports the group's answers to the whole class
  • Round Robin - Seat students in small groups. Call out a controversial question or statement and allow students to express their opinions--but students are only allowed to talk one at a time, according to the order in which they are seated around a round table. Consequently, if they wish to respond to something someone else has said, they must make a note of that so that they can remember the comment they wish to make until it is their turn. When it is their turn, they are only allowed to make one comment and/or ask one question. In this way, all students (including those who are reluctant to speak), get a turn.
  • Speed Geeking - 12 presentations run concurrently. At the end of 5 min., a signal is given and all audience members rotate to a new presentation
  • Talking Chips - Give each student in a group 4 chips of a different color. Students may make comments or ask questions at any time during the small group or whole class discussion, but each time they do, they must "pay" a chip. When they are out of chips, they cannot speak again until everyone has used their chips. Conversely, for each chip the student spends, s/he may earn a point toward some privilege or reward.

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- A great list of communicative games and activities for elementary students which can be easily adapted for secondary classrooms

See also: Classroom Management, Creating Compelling Classroom Experiences