Classroom Learning Strategies That Support School Improvement
Outcomes for the two days:
Participants will experiment with and adapt for their own use a variety of interactive activities that are
based on practices shown to have a high probability of increasing learning:
explore the power of using strategies that address multiple intelligences in teaching and learning
identify places in their curriculum where they can infuse the direct teaching of higher level
practice content-based literacy skills that increase comprehension of texts
explore the concept of elaborative rehearsal and its role in the learning process
investigate how information literacy and Web 2.0 tools can be effectively incorporated into
The teachers who get "burned out" are not the ones who are constantly learning, which can be
exhilarating, but those who feel they must stay in control and ahead of the students at all times.
The task of the excellent teacher is to stimulate "apparently ordinary" people to unusual effort. The tough
problem is not in identifying winners: it is in making winners out of ordinary people.
K. Patricia Cross
I. Building Community
Just Like Me!
II. Two High Octane Strategies with Multiple Applications
III. Prior Knowledge
At the Mall
IV. A Writing Strategy – DRAPES
Why we must bother with vocabulary!!!!
Powerful graphic organizer to use across the curriculum in vocabulary
Making the most of Word Walls
VI. Just Say Something—A Reading Strategy to Help Students Monitor Their Comprehension
I. Reconnecting and using a hands-on activity to think metaphorically
II. Rethinking PowerPoints ―I’m so tired of PowerPoints and SmartBoards!‖ Newport News, VA middle
Digital Story Telling:
The Dust Bowl
Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today. — Robert McKee
The universe is made of stories, not atoms. — Muriel Rukeyser
Sites to explore:
Sites students might use:
Ways to help students become critical thinkers:
Battle of the Bands—Teaching Evaluation
The True Story of the Three Little Pigs Strategy
Adapted from Promoting Reflective Thinking in Teachers: 50 Action Strategies by Taggert & Wilson
PMI: Thoughtful Decision Making (Edward DeBono strategy): PMI helps direct the thinking of
individuals so that they look at an issue from a variety of points of view. It’s a helpful tool for
getting individuals to look beyond their prejudices or inclinations and to explore a topic openly.
P = plus or good points
M = minus or the bad points
I = interesting or interesting points (neither positive or negative)
IV. Thinking metaphorically--Synectics
V. Summarizers, a way for students to rehearse their thinking before class discussions and writing
Make a Choice
Venn Diagram in 3D
The BIG Question (Collaboration & Summarization, plus it’s good energizer, get to-know-you
Layered Foldable Book
Web 2.0 tools—Blabberize, Animoto, SlideShare, Xtranormal, Bubbl.Us
Tool # 1: Scavenger hunt
• Introduces new vocabulary, new concepts, and reinforces what students already know
• Gives the teacher the opportunity to take note of student prior knowledge and begin to plan for
different learning needs
• Builds classroom community
Content area examples:
Algebra Scavenger Hunt
Find someone who can solve the Find someone who can explain Find someone who can explain
equation 3X + 3 = 39. what these symbols mean: what a box & whisker graph is
and what it is used for.
Find someone who can give you a Find someone willing to share a Find someone who can write an
real-life situation where you pocketful of Hershey’s Kisses algebraic expression with an
would use algebra to solve a exponent in it.
Find someone who can tell you Find someone who can tell you Find someone who can write a
the order of operations whether this is a monomial or quadratic equation and explain
polynomial: why it is one.
Introduction to Shakespeare Scavenger Hunt
Can name the theater where Can explain what a sonnet is Can point to England on the map
Shakespeare’s plays were often at the front of the room
Can name the Queen and the Can explain what Stratford-upon- Can quote Shakespeare
centuries most associated with Avon is
Can explain the difference Knows what Francis Bacon and Can name 3 of Shakespeare’s
between comedy and tragedy Christopher Marlowe have in plays or describe 2 or more
common and why they are themes that run through
connected to Shakespeare Shakespeare’s work
Tool # 2: Just Like Me
If possible, get everyone in a circle
Model by saying…‖Who, just like me…finish the sentence with a statement such as ―likes to
kayak‖ or ―loves the Patriots‖ or ―hates chocolate‖?
Everyone who fits that category stands up
Encourage others to start the prompt
Tool # 3: Visual Synectics--Learning by analogies and metaphors
Gather a group of pictures—twice as many as you have students.
Spread them around the room.
Group the class into groups of 3 and have them put their chairs into a circle.
Use the directions below with your students
1. Form a circle of chairs for your group. (No tables, no ―stuff‖!)
2. Browse through the images that are laid out around the room. Find one that ―speaks‖ to you and
return to a chair in your circle.
3. Place your image on the floor in front of you in the center of the circle of chairs.
4. When all are back, listen for the prompt:
a. One person starts by describing his/her own selected image. What is obvious? What is
unclear? Then he/she makes connections of the image with the topic. (2-3 minutes each)
b. Still working with this same person and his/her image, the others in the group describe
what they see and what connections they might make to that image (If that were my
picture, I might notice or connect…). Don’t solve problems that arise of give advice.
Explore perspectives and possible meanings.
c. Repeat this process for each person in the group
d. If time, the group can discuss any patterns or overall connections that emerge.
Tool # 4: Think-Pair-Share
3 good reasons revisit this strategy!
It is so versatile; it can be used as a before or during or after reading/viewing/listening activity.
It incorporates elements of strategies that have been proven to increase learning:
o --restating an idea in a new way
o --think time
o --using different learning modalities
The same processes that increase understanding can be delivered in a variety of formats so that
think-pair-share can be adapted for different content areas, age groups, or energy level
Steps in the Think-Pair-Share Process:
1. Teacher asks a question or provides a prompt.
2. Students are given time to think about their responses.
3. Students pair up and discuss their responses.
4. Student pairs share their ideas with a larger group.
The Smart Card from Spencer Kagan offers a multitude of ways to think-pair-share. Teachers and students
can mix and match the components in a multitude of ways in process and reflect on issues, concepts, and
1. Here are some different ways to ask your students to THINK about things:
How are things alike? Students look for similarities between items, events or ideas. How are
fractions and decimals alike?
How are things different? Students look for differences between items, events, or ideas. How
were the American Revolution and the French Revolution different?
How do things look differently from inside or from the outside? Students imagine what it
would be like to be an observer inside or outside an item, event, system, etc. You are foreign
entity floating along the circulatory system and are about to be attacked by white blood cells, tell
us what is happening to you.
What is your estimate or prediction? Students must make an educated guess or an inference
using given information and their own general background information. If another huge Pacific
rim volcano erupted and spewed so much ash into the atmosphere that the sun was only half as
bright, how would we be impacted here in Maine?
2. Here are some different processes to ask students to use when they PAIR up:
Devil's advocate--students respond to their partner's points with views that are the opposite. Let's
look at this from an opposite point of view.
Tell/Add on: partner # 1 starts the discussion and then partner # 2 adds on to the story or
information. Another cause of the Civil War was...
Interview: Partners interview one another to find out what each other is thinking. Roles can be
assumed. So General Pickett, what were you thinking when you ordered your men to charge.
Act: partners act out the response. First create an equilateral triangle and then make the shape of
an isosceles triangle.
Here are some different ways for the partners to SHARE their thinking:
Chart: each set of partners makes a chart and posts it. The group walks around looking at charts.
One alternative is to allow students to write pertinent comments, observations, or questions on the
chart. When everyone returns to their seats, the teacher asks the students to reflect on what they
o What similarities do you see?
o What surprises were there for you?
o Which of our questions have been answered?
o What new questions do we have?
Chalk talk: Post a big piece of mural paper in the front of the room with the prompt written on it
Give students chalk or markers to represent their thinking in a graphic way. Process using
Ask partners to pair up with another set and have the four share their ideas. Ask each group
to choose one or two ideas to share with the entire group. Chart and discuss.
Mini white boards: Partners write their answers on the white board and at a given signal hold up
Tool # 5: Four Corners
Spencer Kagan (http://kaganonline.com) originated this strategy, but it has been around the block
many times and been used for a variety of purposes. It can be used as a pre-assessment, a
summarizer, a discussion starter or energizer, or a formative assessment.
1. Students are asked to move to a corner of the room whose label best matches their opinion, their
knowledge level, their skill level, or represents something they like. What the corners are labeled
depends on your purpose. See examples below.
2. Each corner group is given a specific task, must work together to accomplish it and then present
to the entire group.
Here is science example, as it would play out in class:
Go to corner # 1 if you can clearly explain what a metamorphic rock is.
Go to corner #2 if you can clearly explain what an igneous rock is.
Go to corner # 3 if you can clearly explain what a sedimentary rock is.
Go to corner # 4 if you can explain all 3 types of rocks.
Corners 1, 2 & 3, your task is to create a chart that clearly explains the characteristics of your
type of rock.
Corner 4, your task is to create a graphic organizer that shows the similarities and differences
among the different types of rocks. Think about formation, characteristics, appearance, etc.
As a teacher I have made a quick assessment of who knows what. I can also identify any
misconceptions and figure out who needs what retaught and who needs to speed along.
As a prewriting strategy to help students rehearse ideas for an essay--Question:
which of the early presidents was most influential in setting precedents that still
matter today: George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison.
In your groups, organize your arguments and prepare to report out.
Primary and world language teachers can use pictures in this strategy to build oral
Math teachers may use a combination of words and symbols or the teacher might
present a problem and ask students to go to the corner labeled with the strategy they
want to solve the problem with—find a pattern, guess and check, make a table, draw
a picture, etc.
Tool # 6: Anticipatory Guide
• To get students thinking about the major concepts contained in a piece of text.
• To encourage students to read text closely, seeking out details that validate or contradict their thinking
• To use as a starting point of discussion
Procedure for teacher:
• Preread the text and identify the major concepts and ideas you want your students to understand.
• Write statements or questions based on these major points. Often the statements are written in
• Create a guide similar to the one below.
Directions: Before reading the assignment, read each of the following statements and check off the ones
you feel are true. After reading, go back and reread the statements and check off the ones you find to be
1. ---- ---- 1. The people in the Abolitionist Movement were determined to wipe
2. ---- ---- 2. The abolitionists were pretty much New Englanders.
3. ---- ---- 3. If your cause is just, then sometimes you might have to resort to
violence in order further your cause.
Use Consensogram for the same purpose
HOW TO USE:
Identify an important issue
Determine what information is important to focus on
Create 3-5 statements about different aspects of this issue—they may be factual or attitudinal
Decide how you will assess
o 1-4 scale
o Agree-disagree continuum
o Sometimes-never continuum
Create charts—one per question
Give everyone individual stickies—one for each question
Each person puts his/her stickie over the descriptor that best
fits his/her opinion
Process the activity by asking:
o What do we notice?
o What surprises are there?
o What questions do you have?
o What additional information do we need?
Tool # 7: At the Mall: another version of this strategy is called ―Tea Party.‖ It works well as an
energizer as well as a way to build prior knowledge.
Come up with list of words and phrases associated with the unit or reading—one for each student in
the class. Write them each on an index card.
Hand one to each student and direct him or her to walk around like they are at the mall.
When they hear ―stop‖, they are to stop and read their card to someone nearby and listen to what that
person has on her/his card.
Then they start the mall crawl again until they hear stop, and they read their cards again.
(Variation— they can trade cards)
Go through 5 or 6 rotations and have students return to seats.
In small groups, have them list everything they remember on a sheet of paper.
Share the lists and make a big chart. The chart will have key ideas, characteristics, people, places,
events, etc. associated with the next topic to be studies. Students begin to build their mental map
of the topic.
Students can generate questions from these charts.
Tool # 8: DRAPES 1. Keep DRAPES strategies in mind as you
2. Organize your thinking before you start to write.
For Students: Remember:
D = Dialogue 3. Draft your piece
R = Rhetorical Questions a. Introductory paragraph
b. Concluding paragraph
A = Analogies c. Paragraphs in the body
d. Use a DRAPES strategy in each
P = Personal Experience paragraph
i. Make sure each paragraph
sticks to one topic
E = Examples
ii. Organize paragraphs to help
reader follow your thinking
S = Statistics iii. Use rich vocabulary
**** These strategies will work in iv. Vary the structure of your
PowerPoints, Movies, Podcasts & Other Web
Publishing Opportunities 5. Revise for content and readability
6. Edit for spelling, punctuation, capitalization, &
Notes to the teacher:
Preteach the terms of the DRAPES Technique
Provide examples of pieces using DRAPES techniques
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration said Monday it would require significantly more
environmental review before approving new offshore drilling permits, ending a practice in which
government regulators essentially rubber-stamped potentially hazardous deepwater projects like the BP
The administration has come under sharp criticism for granting BP an exemption from environmental
oversight for the Macondo well, which blew out on April 20, killing 11 workers and spewing nearly five
million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
From the NY Times : ―U.S. to Tighten Reviews for New Offshore Drilling Plans‖ by JOHN M. BRODER
Published: August 16, 2010
`CSI' for seafood: Gulf fish gets safety tests
WASHINGTON – Fish, shrimp and other catches from the Gulf of Mexico are being ground up to hunt for
minute traces of oil in what's considered unprecedented safety testing — sort of a "CSI" for seafood that's
far more reassuring than the sniff test that made all the headlines.
And while the dispersant that was dumped into the massive oil spill has consumers nervous, health
regulators contend there's no evidence it builds up in seafood — although they're working to create a test
for it, just in case.
"We're taking extraordinary steps to assure a high level of confidence in the seafood," Jane Lubchenco,
administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said Monday.
Don't expect the monitoring to end soon: "We're not going anywhere," Lubchenco said, renewing a pledge
to keep testing even in waters declared oil-free to detect any lingering seafood concern
Think of the possibilities if the team works together to teach their students this technique for
approach their writing assignments!
o Teachers could share the responsibilities for teaching the students what each of the
DRAPES terms mean and then the other teachers could reinforce these concepts in their
classrooms and homerooms.
o One teacher could introduce the entire process to the team’s students and then other
teachers could reinforce these strategies in their open-ended responses. Because the
students understand the process, the other teachers can concentrate on content, and the
students receive multiple practices thatß will help them internalize the process.
o Teachers can create a common rubric to use in all classes
o Team teachers can use DRAPES as a basis for an interdisciplinary unit
Tool # 9: Vocabulary Graphic organizer-- Frayer Model
Definition—Do This Block Last Characteristics
Examples of Non-Examples
Tool # 10 Word Sorts
• Differentiates for the social or auditory learner who really needs to talk things through to gain
• Builds an initial understanding of new vocabulary as students share knowledge
• Gives teacher an opportunity to make note of incorrect knowledge, students who are ahead of the
group, and which words will need the most work
• Builds classroom community
1. Small Group Sort
• Divide class into small groups (3-5)
• Give each group a stack of new words
• Ask them to discuss words and sort them
o Into the headings we used in the individual sort or
o Into smaller groups of words that they think go together and then have them label each
o Share groupings and why they grouped them the way they did
2. Whole Class Sort
• Each student receives a card with a word on it (different word for each student)
• Have students discuss with their neighbors what they think the word might mean
• Have students go to board and tape their words up. As more words go up, students rearrange them
into groupings that make sense to them.
• Process the groupings—What do these words have in common? What might we label this group?
Are there any words that don’t belong in a group?
Tool # 11: Interactive Word Walls
Interactive Word Walls (Before-During-After Reading Activity)
o Everyone one up: Raise your hand and when I call on you, tell me the definition of one
of these words.
o First one out the door: Raise your hand and use one of our words in a sentence, and you
can be the first one in line to leave for lunch!
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o Use them to review and summarize information.
Emily, can you tell us how photosynthesis and respiration are related?
Harry, please compare and contrast photosynthesis and respiration.
o Use pop culture to provide students practice with words in different contexts. For
example, think of the words—evasive, pinnacle & prevaricate.
Find a character in a video or online game who could be described as evasive.
Find some characters on TV who are at the pinnacle of their careers
Think of a character in movie who prevaricates
o Use sentence stems that require students to demonstrate their understanding of a word by
finishing the sentence:
The stairs to the building were dilapidated so….
My little brother has an uncanny way of…
o Create a scenario by connecting vocabulary words in sentence or question and have
Would a contemporary of George Washington consider allowing women to vote a radical idea?
Would you be forthcoming if you were in the process of dissembling to your parents?
o Use challenges
―Work with a partner and see how many words from our Word Wall you can use
in one sentence correctly!‖
Hangman –last five minute of class
o Mix and match--write words on one color index card and definitions on index cards of
another color. Pass them out to students and instruct them to find the student that holds
the matching definition or word.
o Utilize popular comics and cartoons--put up on the screen a cartoon or comic without a
caption or word bubble and ask students to write a quip or two using new words.
o Cue cards As students enter the classroom, give each one an index card with a
vocabulary word on it.. Encourage the students to use the word in class discussions or
while asking a question. To help students who might be unsure of their word, give the
class three minutes of time when they can use any resource in the room including people
to clarify the meaning.
o Get the principal, cafeteria staff, and other school staff involved. Give them a list of
words for the week and ask them to stop your students and ask them to define or use a
word in a sentence correctly. If the student does, s/he receives a ticket. Tickets go into a
jar in each homeroom. Recognition can be given for the homeroom with most tickets or
drawings for prizes can be held.
o Fly swatter: (http://jc-schools.net/tutorials/vocab/flyswatter.htm)
Level: Any Level
• Divide your class into 2 groups.
• Display on the blackboard 20 vocabulary words (words could also be displayed
on the Word Wall)
• Choose one student from each team and ask them to turn their backs to the
• Give both students a fly swatter
• The teacher gives a definition for one of the words.
• The students will face the words and attempt to be the first to "fly swat" the
word to earn points for their team.
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Just Say Something
Differentiates for processing style, comprehension issues, & learning styles
Research-based learning strategies: summarization, interaction with text, cooperative learning
Uses: During reading strategy or during direct teaching strategy
This reading strategy helps you make sense of a piece of text by talking about the ideas as you go along. I
will be asking you to use the strategies of proficient readers (chunking a text, asking questions, finding
connections, summarizing and making predictions). By working through this strategy you will be prepared
for our class or small group discussion.
Work with your partner. STOP
Together, chunk up your reading by placing stop signs (stickies)
along the way. (Unless I have already done this for you.)
Read silently and stop at your stop signs. When you get to each, talk with your partner about such
what you think it said
what you think about it Jot down some notes on
what interests you stickies or in the margin so
what you have questions about
what new thoughts you have
you can remember your
what you might not have understood ideas later!
how it connects with something else.
Move on through the reading in this manner until you have finished.
If you are waiting for others, talk with your partner and decide what three big ideas you think we
should discuss as a group or identify questions you want to bring up to the group. If you finish
way ahead of everyone else, get some drawing paper and create together a visual representation
(pictures) of the three important ideas you chose. Summarizing ideas in multiple ways helps us all
to think deeply about our reading and increases our learning.
Tool # 13: 4 Square Synectics
• Brainstorm with the students a list categories: food, sports, games, places, etc.
• Choose one of the categories and then brainstorm examples within the chosen category.
Food: pizza, corn on the cob, ice cream, spaghetti
• Create a 4 quadrant chart
Pizza Corn on the cob
Ice cream Spaghetti
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• Reveal the chart.
• The chart reads -------- is like ------- because. You fill in the blanks with the topic you
are studying and the item you picked. One curriculum topic per chart.
Revolution is like spaghetti because
Polynomials are like baseball because
Gravity is like ketchup because
• Give partners or small groups a few minutes to brainstorm some responses—you will be
amazed at the thinking your students exhibit! The first time you do this with kids, it’s
best to model your thinking in one of the quadrants, then do the next quadrant together
Let the students finish the last two on their own.
For example… The American Revolution is like spaghetti because:
Like spaghetti there were many strands that made up the entire event (battles, diplomatic methods,
Spaghetti has meatballs that stand out of the dish like the Revolution had standout leaders—Adams,
Spaghetti has many ingredients that blend together just like the Revolution had several colonies that
Tool # 14: Evaluation matrix
Band Criteria # 1 Criteria # 2 Criteria # 3 Total Points
Individually, rank each band for each criteria on a scale of 1-4: 1 = poor, 2 = fair,
3 = good, 4 = totally awesome. Total your individual scores, then total group’s.
Tool # 15: The True Story of the Three Little Pigs Strategy
Adapted from Promoting Reflective Thinking in Teachers: 50 Action Strategies by Taggert & Wilson
Task: Using the metaphor provided by the straw, sticks and bricks central to the story of Scieszka’s book
The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, participants evaluate the effectiveness of strategies they are using
or have used in the past.
Materials: Book -- The True Story of the Three Little Pigs; stickie notes (3 colors—straw, sticks, and
bricks); chart paper labeled straw, sticks, & bricks; markers; and images of straw, sticks, and bricks to set
Time: 45-60 minutes
Read aloud the story. Use Think-Pair-Share to have participants discuss the significance of
the pigs using straw, sticks, and bricks to build their homes.
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Either individually or in small groups have participants brainstorm the strategies they have
used on a piece of paper.
Have individuals or groups evaluate the effectiveness of each strategy and write it on a color-
coded stickie note. Yellow for straw, orange for sticks, and pick for bricks.
Have participants post stickes on the appropriate charts.
Starting with straw chart, have participants discuss why strategies are categorized as they are.
Using the Iceberg Metaphor strategy below will help participants think deeply about ―hidden‖
forces that are impacting their efforts
Tool # 16: Physical Venn Diagram: Gather your class into a large circle and hand out 8 x 11 pieces of
construction paper with items to be placed in the Venn diagram (make sure students know what you mean
by Venn diagram http://www.eduplace.com/graphicorganizer/).
Better yet—hand out blank pieces of paper and have students write a fact about the
topic(s) you been studying on each piece, collect and shuffle them and redistribute. Each
child receives an item—s/he then places it under the correct column.
Unique to ______________
Unique to ______________
Characteristic of both
Tool # 17: Make a Choice This strategy works well when you want to help students internalize a concept
like viscosity or prime and composite numbers.
• Label sides of the room. For example, when doing viscosity, one side will be high viscosity and the other
will be low.
• Give each student a card with an example of the concept on it.
• Student then walks to the correct side of the room (e.g. molasses would go to the high viscosity side).
• This should be a non-threatening strategy with students helping each other out—the object is
understanding, not to catch someone being wrong.
longitude & latitude
phases of mitosis & meiosis
metaphors & similes
Union & Confederacy
metamorphic, igneous & sedimentary
decimals and percents
facts & myths (health)
Tool # 18: Mix and Match: This strategy works well for reviewing definitions. Create a class set of
cards—1/3 are vocabulary words, 1/3 are the definitions, and 1/3 are examples of the
words. Color-code them: words are one color, definitions are another, and the examples are
a third. Mix them all up and distribute. Turn on some jazzy music and have students find
the other two students who hold matching cards. At the end put everyone in a big circle to
report out. The students get a quick review and you can see if there are any misperceptions.
Tool # 19: The BIG Question (Collaboration & Summarization, plus it’s good energizer, get to-know-you
Give everyone an index card to write a question on.
Have everyone get up and walk around while you play some music.
Stop the music and each person finds a partner.
Partners ask & answer each other’s questions; then they trade cards
Music starts and the process repeats
Tool # 20: Walking-Talking Matrix (R. Wormeli idea) Think of your room as a giant
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• One wall is the top of the chart and the adjacent wall is the left side of the
• Arrange labels on the correct walls
• Arrange class into partners and give each set of partners a topic that they
must figure out where it goes in the chart
• Have fun—allow Life Line calls, etc.
QuickTime™ and a
are neede d to see this picture.
Tool # 21: Layered Book Foldable
1. Stack two sheets of paper so that the back sheet is one inch longer than the front.
2. Fold the sheets down so that you have 4 tabs of equal widths and with sides aligned evenly.
3. Crease well
4. Either staple or glue along fold
Adapted from Reading and Study Skills Foldables (High School) by Dinah Zike (Glencoe)
Physical Team Building Activities
Why bother to take the time to use energizer/team-building activities?
Team building helps develop a sense of community that leads to a safe environment. Stress and
fear can decrease learning potential. By taking the time to build a community of learners, students
and/or staff are more likely to engage in learning activities.
Between 25-33% of the population learn best through kinesthetic experiences.
Metaphoric thinking helps people internalize concepts. Games can be used as a metaphor for a
variety of concepts.
When to use team-building activities:
To begin the year or a class/meeting
To maintain a sense of community throughout the year
To welcome new students/teachers to the class/staff
To add a kinesthetic component to a lesson or unit or discussion
To energize a group
To create meaning through metaphor and stimulate higher level thinking skills
Research On Metaphors and Leaning
From Marcia Tate’s Worksheets Don’t Grow Dendrites (p. 50)
Most of our normal system of concepts is metaphorically structured. In other words, most
concepts are understood only as they relate to other concepts. (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980)
Students should make new learning fit into their personal world by capitalizing on the brain’s
ability to connect the new to the known. (Caine & Caine, 1994)
Making associations forms new connections between neurons and encodes new insights similar to
a tree growing new branches. (Sousa, 1995)
Creating and analyzing metaphors to enhance meaning and higher-order thinking skills is a
teaching strategy that involves left hemisphere skills. (Sousa, 1995)
Metaphors link abstract, difficult to understand concepts with personal experiences and promote a
sense of creativity. (Whitin & Whitin, 1997)
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Metaphors can make otherwise forgettable concepts memorable, placing them easily and quickly
into the brain. (Deporter, Readon, & Singer-Nourie, 1999)
Metaphor allows a concept to be viewed from a broader perspective, such as how it is applicable
to other content areas, to the student’s home environment, or to life as whole. (Allen, 2002)
Comparing, contrasting, classifying, and using metaphors are all instructional strategies that
increase student achievement. (Marzano, Pickering, & Pollack, 2001)
Metaphorical connections stretch the thinking of students and increase the likelihood that their
understanding of a topic or concept will be broadened ore retained in the future. (Gregory &
THE GORDIAN KNOT (TeachmeTeamwork.com)
Sometimes It’s Not All About Our Problems!
Materials: Enough 24 inch lengths of rope to give one to each pair of people in the group
Have people break into groups of 6 or 8 people (must be an even number). Then have each group break into
pairs. Each group forms a tight circle with pairs standing opposite one another grasping each end of their
rope. (see graphic below)
Quic kTime™ and a
TIFF (Uncom press ed) decompres sor
are needed to see this pic ture.
Keeping hold of the rope, members of the group should create a knot in the center of the circle by moving
under and over one another while criss-crossing the circle. (Do NOT let go of the rope) Continue this knot
tying process until there is only about 4 inches of rope remaining.
Each group drops their knot and moves on to another group’s knot. Grasping the rope ends, and without
letting go each group untangles the knot.
What thoughts did you have at the beginning, the middle, and end of the activity?
How did your group do with this activity?
Who did the talking?
What was said that was helpful?
When did you know you were going to succeed as a group?
How might this relate to our work, our unit?
Bandana Relay from TeachmeTeamwork.com
Teams must move from Point A to Point B.
Split group into teams (4-8 people)
Each person must hold onto the bandana with both hands
The bandanna must be held out straight
The cup is balanced upside down on the bandana
The marble is perched on top of the cup
The team moves from Point A to Point B without dropping the marble; they must start
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over if the marble rolls off.
What strategies did you use to solve this challenge?
How might you adapt and apply these strategies in other situations?
What do the marble, the cup, and the bandana each represent?
From Leading Together: Foundations of Collaborative Leadership Curriculum
(Frank, Carlin, & Christ)
Materials: a soft 3 dimensional object that won’t hurt if it lands on your head. One for each participant.
Objective: to throw all of the objects into the air at once and have each one caught before it hits the ground.
Participants may not catch their own object or the one from the person to their right or left.
Clear a big enough space that everyone can be in a circle.
Each participant places one of the soft objects at his/her feet.
Start with one object. Count to three and throw the object up in the air. Model gentle throwing,
not propelling it through the air at warp speed.
If it’s not caught, try again.
Then move on to two items. Ask another person to pick up his/her object, count to three and both
of you toss the objects.
If they are both caught, move on to three objects and so on.
Anytime an object is dropped, it is removed from that round. For example, if seven objects are
thrown and two dropped, the two that hit the floor are removed. The next toss goes back to five
items. When the five are once again successfully tossed and caught, add a sixth.
As the challenge becomes more difficult, allow participants time to strategize how they might
accomplish their goal.
An alternative is to allow participants to set a goal of how many objects to try to toss and catch.
When did the group decide to communicate? What led to that behavior?
How were decisions made?
How is this All-Toss activity like real-life events you have experienced?
Keeping on Track
Materials: Each participant has a section of track. Each group has one marble.
The goal: To pass the marble as quickly as possible from point A to point B using the tracks without
touching the marble with fingers or dropping it. Participants may not move their feet while the marble is in
their piece of the track. Dropping the marble means starting over.
The group forms a circle facing inward with each participant holding a piece of track.
As quickly as possible the group moves the marble around the circle.
After the time is noted the group sets a challenging goal and a strategy for improving the time and
then tries again.
Variations: Groups can form straight lines rather than circles. Groups can compete to see who can make
the marble go fastest.
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Challenge: The facilitator takes half of the tracks away. Same goal and everyone still needs to participate.
What was most challenging about doing this the first time?
What did people do differently that made for improvement over the first or second time?
How is this activity like keeping each student on track for learning?
Mrs. Wright’s Story
Setup / Preparation
1. Supply each person with an index card. Have each person write his or her name on the card.
2. Have the group stand up and form a big circle.
3. Before starting the ―Mrs. Wright‖ activity make sure everyone has only ONE card (this is very
4. Inform everyone that you are about to read a story. Tell the group that during the story, if they hear the
word ―right‖, they are to pass the card they have in their hands to the Right. If they hear the word ―left‖
they are to pass the card they have in their hands to the Left.
5. Do a ―test run‖ with the group. Tell the group: ―I’d like to do a test run with you. Ready? Right (pause
to let everyone pass their card to the Right). Left (pause to let everyone pass their card to the Left). Very
good. Everyone should now have the card they started out with (your name is on your card). Now let’s
begin the story.‖
6. This is where you start reading the ―Mrs. Wright‖ story (see the story below). Start off slowly so
people can get a chance to feel successful. Then slowly speed up. Adapt & Transfer
7. If everyone does their job, they will end up with their card at the end of the story.
8. THE STORY: ―Once upon a time, Mrs. Wright took her three left handed children (Wendy Wright,
Larry Wright, and Billy Wright) on a vacation. They left on a Monday and planned to return just before the
Thanksgiving holiday. Billy Wright left school for the Wright vacation. Wendy left a whole plate of
leftovers for her cat to eat during the Wright vacation. But Billy, who is the president of a local leftist
organization, was the saddest of all. He left behind all the addresses of friends that he wanted to write to
while on vacation. This mistake left Billy’s friends in the dark. By the end of the week, all the Wrights
wished they had never left. They still had the weekend left, but Mrs. Wright decided that the right thing to
do would be to return home right away. They arrived back at their house, which is located to the left of
Yankee Stadium, in time for Thanksgiving leftovers.‖
This activity is from Jim Cain, author of the book Teamwork & Teamplay.
What might a group learn about itself using this activity?
When might you use this activity in your work?
Duct Tape Trolley
Group is divided up into teams
2 strips of duct tape are laid down in parallel lines, sticky side up for each team
Teams step on their strips
They must move from Point A to Point B QuickTime™ and a
are needed to see this picture.
What strategies did you use to solve the challenge?
What decisions/actions were key to your success?
How does this activity relate to your work?
For more ideas, check out…
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