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Tried and True Active Teaching Strategies

Janelle Cox

There comes a time in every teacher’s life that all of those tried and true teaching strategies that you have once used are no longer effective. There can many reasons for this: You are teaching a new grade level, the students in your class just aren’t accepting of them, or they just no longer seem relevant. Whatever the reason, its nature’s way of telling you that you have to compile a new set of teaching strategies for your classroom.  Here are a few tried and true active teaching strategies that educators just like you love to use in their classrooms.

Teaching Strategies: Think-Pair-Share

This active learning strategy is a popular one among teachers that use cooperative learning in their classroom. This strategy engages the individual student, then a pair, and finally a whole group of students. This three-step strategy works like this: First, the teacher poses a question and asks students to silently think about the answer in their head. Next, students pair up with their neighbor and discuss their answers with one another. Third, the teacher chooses a few groups to share their answers with the whole class. This active learning strategy can be used before the lesson to help activate prior knowledge, or at the end of a lesson to help summarize the information learned.

Real-World Scenarios

21st-century learning includes using real-world scenarios to help students understand and really grasp a concept. This strategy works by having students connect whatever topic they are studying to a real-world situation. Students must apply whatever topic they are discussing in the classroom to a situation that they have, or may have in the future. This is an essential skill that students will need in order to be successful in the 21st-century workforce.

Reciprocal Questioning

Reciprocal questioning is a learning strategy where students can work individually, with a partner, or within a whole group. The teacher provides question stems or prompts, such as “Describe in your own words” or “Why is this important?” These comprehension prompts train students to engage in metacognitive thought as well as to think critically while they are reading a passage. Teacher prep is essential in order for this strategy to be successful. The teacher needs to take the time to really think of questions and make sure that they are well-structured before they pose them to their students.

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Problem-Based Learning

Much like the real-world scenarios learning strategy, this active learning strategy consists of carefully designed problems that really challenge students to use their problem-solving skills, communication skills, and their knowledge. The problem that the teacher poses must be based on a real-world situation that a student can encounter. It’s the student’s job to determine how the problem occurred (what’s causing it) and what they can do to fix it.

Rotating Chairs

Another great cooperative active learning strategy that works very well in classrooms is the rotating chairs strategy. Here’s how it works:

  • Students are put into groups and a lead speaker starts the discussion.
  • When a student in the group wants to speak, he raises his hand and the lead speaker calls upon them.
  • Then that person must briefly summarize what the lead speaker said before they can develop the idea even further.
  • This continues each time a new person wants to participate. The previous speaker calls upon the new speaker to talk, and that new person must summarize the previous person’s points. If they would like to start a new discussion thread then they must summarize everything that was said before.

Students gain the most from the rotating chairs strategy because they get to play the role of the speaker and the listener. They are learning from others which is a great way to increase their knowledge base.

Studies show that active learning strategies are found to keep students engaged because students tend to remember more when the activities are brief. By actively engaging students you are motivating them to think deeper, participate with their peers, and really think about what they are doing. Rather than a simple classroom exercise, try exploring an active learning strategy where your students will be mindful and engaged in what they are learning about.

What are some of your favorite active learning strategies? Do you have any that you would like to share? Please feel free to share your ideas in the comment section below. We would love to hear your ideas.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for, as well as a contributing writer to and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.