UW Continuum College Instructor Resources

Designing Activities that Involve All Students

Below are several ideas for activities to engage your students with one another, and with the course materials. If you are teaching an online course using Zoom, you may also wish to review our resource on Hosting Engaging Meetings (UW NetID required).


Jigsaw Group Projects

All students in a group are asked to complete a discrete part of the project. The class is redistributed into mixed groups, with one member from each team in each group. The pieces are joined together to form a finished project. Have the teams share their report to the class.



Concept Mapping

Students connect terms or concepts to each other and describe the relationship between the connected terms. Most of the terms in a concept may have multiple connections. Have students post the concept maps around the class and have students walk around to see the posted concept maps.



The “Flipped” Classroom

Flipping the classroom is a “pedagogy-first” approach to teaching. In this approach in-class time is “re-purposed” for inquiry, application, and assessment in order to better meet the needs of the individual learners. Students gain control of the learning process through studying course material outside of class, using readings, pre-recorded video lectures (using technology such as Tegrity), or research assignments. During class time, instructors become facilitators of the learning process by helping students work through problems individually and in groups.  There are numerous ways to flip your class.  In fact “every teacher who has chosen to flip does so differently,” says flipping gurus Bergmann and Sams (2012).  The University of Texas at Austin, has a nice “Quick Start” guide to help you determine what kind of flip is best for your course. For more information on flipping the classroom, visit the UW Center for Teaching and Learning website.


Think Pair Share

Think-Pair-Share allows for students to think about a question or problem silently. The student may write down thoughts or simply just brainstorm in his or her head. When prompted, the student pairs up with a peer and discusses his or her idea(s) and then listens to the ideas of his or her partner. Following pair dialogue, the teacher solicits responses from the whole group. When teachers use this technique they don’t have to worry about students not volunteering because each student will already have an idea in their heads, therefore, the teacher can call on anyone and increase discussion productivity.

Benefits of Think Pair Share (TPS) are:

  • Develops capacity to articulate an idea and use new terminology
  • Develops the idea that the source of power is in each learner (students created the content for your job as an instructor)
  • This exercise gets all students talking in each lesson. I have several students in my class who love to participate during lessons and discussions, but there are many students who would rather sit back and just listen.  TPS helps me get those students (introverts, processors, shy folk, ELLs) involved in the discussion and helps them build confidence.
  • It helps with information retention because it is “active” vs. “passive” learning.
  • Provides safety – rather than sharing with the full group, gives students a chance to “test” their ideas and clarify their ideas in a pair.

Turn and Talk is a similar activity with similar benefits; it basically removes silent thinking at the beginning and possibly the larger debrief portion of the activity.


Lotus Teaching Method – Students Creating the Learning

In the Lotus, the teacher puts the central idea/topic in the center of a grid and then asks students to contribute related ideas about the central idea, one for each remaining space on the grid.

Lotus Blossom sample grid

Once the grid is complete, the teacher splits up the class into eight groups; one for each of the new student-generated ideas, related to the initial central idea.

Each group then creates a new grid, using their secondary idea as the central idea on the new grid. The groups then complete their new gird with new ideas related to their new central idea.

Lotus Blossom sample grid 2

The Lotus helps students to make threads and relationships across and among topics and ideas to create new learning.

Visit the The Thought Egg webpage to learn more about the Lotus Teaching Method.


Gallery Walk – Students Creating the Learning

This discussion technique allows students to be actively engaged as they walk throughout the classroom. They work together in small groups to share ideas and respond to meaningful questions, documents, images, problem-solving situations or texts. Gallery Walks can be combined with other techniques.

Photo of workshop participants

Workshop students using a Gallery Walk to comment on other students’ Lotus Blossoms.

How to Use

  1. Write

Create six questions or prompts about the current topic of study, and write each one on a piece of chart paper or on a white board. Hang or place the questions or prompts in various places around the classroom to create six stations. Images, documents, problems, or quotes may also be used.

  1. Group

Group students into teams of three to five students, depending on the size of the class. Each group should start at a different station.

  1. Begin

At their first station, groups will read what is posted and one recorder should write the group’s responses, thoughts, and comments on the chart paper or white board. For individual student accountability, you may also have the students record their own responses on a worksheet (see template below), or put their initials below what they wrote. Having different colored markers for each student is also an option.

  1. Rotate

After three to five minutes, have the groups rotate to the next station. Students read and discuss the previous group’s response and add content of their own. Repeat until all groups have visited each station. To involve all group members, you can have groups switch recorders at each station.

  1. Monitor

As the teacher, it is important to monitor the stations while the students participate. You may also need to clarify or provide a hint if students don’t understand or misinterpret what is posted at their station.

  1. Reflect

Have students go back to their first station to read all that was added to their first response. Bring the class back together to discuss what was learned and make final conclusions about what they saw and discussed.


When to Use

Use a Gallery Walk at any point in the lesson to engage students in conversation:

  • After reading a story to discuss ideas, themes, and characters
  • After completing a lab to discuss findings and implications
  • To examine historical documents or images
  • Before introducing a new topic to determine students’ prior knowledge
  • After students have created a poster or any other type of display project, or even before they submit it for a grade, use I Like, I Wonder, Next Steps (see below)

Variations on the Gallery Walk


The items posted around the room do not have to be questions, but can be ideas or concepts or even math problems. Large sheets of paper or chart paper are placed on the walls of the classroom. Students write their responses, draw pictures and record their thoughts on the given topic on the graffiti wall. Students are encouraged to use colored markers to make the wall interesting and to identify each student’s work/response.

I Like, I Wonder, Next Steps

Use a Gallery Walk format for students to get feedback on their work. Hang student products, such as drawings, visual representations, poster projects, etc. Students, individually or in groups, rotate around the room and provide feedback to the creator of the work. Students are required to record one thing they like about the work displayed, one thing they wonder about it, and one thing the creator could do next or improve. This can be done before work is submitted to the teacher so that students may use their classmates’ feedback to improve their products. Students can write feedback on chart paper posted by each work, or they can use three different colored sticky notes (one for each category) to write their feedback and stick it directly onto the student product for instant feedback.

Gallery Run

This is a quicker version of a Gallery Walk. The questions posted at each station are lower level questions involving knowledge or comprehension. Students don’t need to spend as much time discussing questions at each station, so they rotate them through at a quicker rate. You can post many more than 6 questions so students get much more practice.

Video Resources

Adult Learning: A Toolkit for UW PCE Instructors – Penny Koch-Patterson (22min)

The Value of Not Telling (2:05)