A collection of Activating Strategies for Teachers Activating strategies

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A Collection of Activating Strategies for Teachers

Activating strategies are teaching strategies that prepare students for learning. Students are prepared for learning by activating an overview of the upcoming learning experience, their prior knowledge, and the necessary vocabulary.

HSTW Foundational Belief: Most students become “smarter” through effort and hard work. Schools improve student achievement when they create structures that cause students to work hard to learn.

HSTW Conditions to Accelerate Student Achievement:

Clear Mission

Strong Leadership

Continuous Improvement

Qualified Teachers

Professional Development

Commitment to HSTW Goals

Ten Key HSTW Practices:

High Expectations

Program of Study

Academic Studies

Career/Technical Studies

Work-based Learning

Teachers working together

Students Actively Engaged

Guidance and Advisement

Extra Help

Culture of Continuous Improvement

Compiled by: Bob Moore


Southern Regional Education Board

High Schools That Work


Table of Contents

Name of Strategy

Page Number

1. Carousel Brainstorming*


2. Walk Around Survey*


3. Word Sorter (Frayer Model) – can be summarizing strategy*


Frayer Model


Sample word list


4. Two Minute Talks*


5. Three Step Interview*


6. Think-Pair-Share*






7. The First Word*


8. Talking Drawings*


Talking Drawings example


9. Possible Sentences*


10. In the Hot Seat*


11. Clock Buddies**


12. Make an Appointment (An alternative to clock buddies)


13. Challenge Envelopes*


14. ABC Brainstorm**


15. Wordsplash***


16. Anticipation Guides***


17. Acceleration*** (Vocabulary Introduction)

Word Maps

Vocabulary Overview Guide




18. Insert


19. CLOZE∆∆†


20. KWL∆∆†


21. Brainstorming


22. Brainstorm and Categorize∆∆∆


23. Brainstorm: Flexibility Style and Web∆∆∆


24. Collaborative Prioritization


25. Thumbs Up – Thumbs Down/Fact or Fiction


26. Admit Slip


27. Notes on Teaching Strategies (Robert Marzano)


28. Excerpt from: Classroom Instruction That Works…


*Information compiled by the Guilford County North Carolina Schools and can be found at http://its.guilford.k12.nc.us.)

**Information compiled by Reading Quest.org (Making Sense In Social Studies)

*** Learning Concepts Inc. Dr. Max Thompson and Dr. Julia Thomason. P.O. Box 2112, Boone, NC 28607. (828) 264-1527.

Submitted/adapted by Mr. Frank Kasik III, Consultant with SREB and a Teacher at Manassas Park City High School, Virginia

∆∆Literacy Across the Curriculum: Setting and Implementing Goals for Grades Six Through 12. The Southern Regional Education Board, High Schools That Work. www.sreb.org

Richardson, Judy S., and Raymond F. Morgan, Reading to Learn in the Content Areas. ISBN 0-534-20328-0. (Almost all of the strategies included in this booklet can be found in this book.)

∆∆∆Saphier, Jon and Mary Ann Haley. Activators. Research for Better Teaching, Inc. One Acton Place, Acton, Massachusetts 01720

Carousel Brainstorming

Purpose: To activate students' prior knowledge of a topic or topics through movement and conversation.

Description: While Carousel Brainstorming, students will rotate around the classroom in small groups, stopping at various stations for a designated amount of time. While at each station, students will activate their prior knowledge of different topics or different aspects of a single topic through conversation with peers. Ideas shared will be posted at each station for all groups to read. Through movement and conversation, prior knowledge will be activated, providing scaffolding for new information to be learned in the proceeding lesson activity.


  1. Generate X number of questions for your topic of study and write each question on a separate piece of poster board or chart paper. (Note: The number of questions should reflect the number of groups you intend to use during this activity.) Post question sheets around your classroom.

  2. Divide your students into groups of 5 or less. For example, in a classroom of 30 students, you would divide your class into 6 groups of five that will rotate around the room during this activity.

  3. Direct each group to stand in front of a home-base question station. Give each group a colored marker for writing their ideas at the question stations. It is advisable to use a different color for tracking each group.

  4. Inform groups that they will have X number of minutes to brainstorm and write ideas at each question station. Usually 2-3 minutes is sufficient. When time is called, groups will rotate to the next station in clockwise order. Numbering the stations will make this easy for students to track.

  5. Group 1 would rotate to question station 2; Group 2 would rotate to question station 3 and so on.
  6. Using a stopwatch or other timer, begin the group rotation. Continue until each group reached their last question station.

  7. Before leaving the final question station, have each group select the top 3 ideas from their station to share with the entire class.

Lipton, L., & Wellman, B. (1998). Patterns and practices in the learning-focused classroom. Guilford, Vermont: Pathways Publishing. 
Sample Carousel Brainstorming for Databases

Question Stations:

  1. What is a database used for?

  2. What do you see when viewing a database?

  3. What are examples of databases that we use in everyday life? 

  4. What fields (categories) of information would you place in a database of your friends?

  5. What fields (categories) of information would you place in a database of European countries?

  6. What types of information do not necessarily belong in a database?

Walk Around Survey
Purpose: To activate students' prior knowledge through conversation and movement
Description: Walk Around Survey can be used as an activating or summarizing strategy. In this activity, students are given a topic of study and asked to move around the room for the purpose of conversing with other students. During these conversations, students will share what they know of the topic and discover what others have learned. 

  1. Assign a topic for the Walk Around Survey.

  2. Pass out a survey form to each student in the class.

  3. Allow students an allotted amount of time to survey three classmates (informers) on the given topic.
  4. When students are completing the survey form, the soliciting student should write the name of the informer on his/her worksheet in the left-hand column. He/she will then record three facts from the student informer on the worksheet in the three empty blocks. He/she will then move on to find a second and third informing student to complete the survey worksheet.

  5. Have students return to their seats and complete the Survey Summary.


Hint: This activity can be used as either an activating or summarizing strategy. It can be done in the classroom or, even better, outside on a nice day. 

Sample Walk Around Survey Topics:

1.     What can you do to become a responsible user of the Internet?

2.     If you were creating a database about X, what fields would you most likely include?

3.     Name ways in which spreadsheets are used in the workplace.

4.     How has the Internet changed the way we communicate and interact with others?
Lipton, L., & Wellman, B. (1998). Patterns and practices in the learning-focused classroom. Guilford, Vermont: Pathways Publishing.

Word Sorter
Purpose:  To engage students in the activity of classifying topics, words, phrases, into categories based upon their knowledge of the content.
Description: In this activity, students have the chance to classify topics, words, and phrases into categories. The process of sorting and classifying strengthens the student's ability to comprehend and retain difficult information. Through a discussion of possible solutions, students negotiate the contextual meaning of the topics, words, or phrases they are sorting.

  1. Generate a list of words related to the topic for review. These words should fall into one of the following categories: Important Characteristics, Uses, Examples, and Non-Examples. (Hint: These categories can be changed to accommodate your topic of study.)

  2. Make a copy of both of the word list and the Frayer Model graphic organizer on transparency paper.

  3. Cut out the words on the word list and store in a zip-lock bag when not in use.
  4. Lay the graphic organizer on an overhead projector.

  5. Place word list words in the center of the graphic organizer one at a time (jumble the order) allowing students to identify the appropriate quadrant location for the word.

Hint: When using this as a warm-up activity, allow students to make errors that will be corrected as you teach your lesson. When using this as a review activity, identify mistakes and re-teach topics when students make errors.
Notes: The Frayer Model (Frayer, Frederick, and Klausmeier, 1969) is a graphic organizer that helps students learn precise meanings of key concepts. This helps student select and organize information related to a key concept by focusing their attention on relevant details as they read. The Frayer Model’s grid design facilitates differentiation of those characteristics necessary to the concept form those that are incidental or nonessential. Students then learn to identify examples as well as non-examples of the concept.
The Frayer Model has several advantages. (1) The process helps student make connections between what they know and what they will be learning. (2) Students learn how to examine a concept from a number of perspectives, how the concept relates to other concepts and information, and how to sort out the relevant features of a concept. (3) The model also allows students to practice extending their knowledge of a concept by classifying more than one example of that concept. Students go beyond merely associating a key term with a definition, thus learning the content more thoroughly and improving retention of the information. The Frayer Model may be used before reading, during reading, or after reading to develop key concepts.


Word Sort Activity Sheet ( Frayer Model graphic organizer)

Word Sort

Important Characteristics

Non-Important Characteristics



Sample Word List for "Webpages"

www.nasa.gov Easy to navigate

www.discoverychannel.com Helpful text and graphics

www.lonelyplanet.com Reliable information

charliebrown@aol.com Loads quickly

snoopy@birddog.com Attractive appearance

URL Microsoft Office

Web Browser Information access

Research Advertise your company/school

Post family pictures Communicate with others

School Homepage National Parks Homepage
Sample Word List for "Angiosperms"
Produce flowers Produces covered seeds

Horsetails Seed or Flower structure

Color of flower Where it grows

Peas Grass

Produces fruit Number of seeds

Fern Moss

Size of plant Roses

Kind of fruit Coleus

Horsetails Pine

Two Minute Talks
Purpose: To activate prior knowledge and focus student learning on the topic about to be addressed.
Description: During Two Minute Talks, students will share with a partner by brainstorming everything they already know (prior knowledge) about a skill, topic, or concept. In doing so, they are establishing a foundation of knowledge in preparation for learning new information about the skill, topic, or concept.

  1. Group students into pairs.
  2. Inform students that they will each be talking about topic X for two minutes. They will need to select which student will begin first. An easy way to do this is to say something like: "Find out whose birthday comes first in a calendar year." Then tell students that, "That person gets to go second!"

  3. Using a stop watch or other timing device, tell students to begin talking.

  4. At two minutes, instruct students to switch. At this point, the other partner begins talking. It is okay for the second person to repeat some of the things the first person said. However, they are encouraged to try and think of new information to share.

  5. Have a few groups share some of their responses with the entire class when the activity is done.

Sample Two Minute Topics:
What are the benefits of using the internet?

What would happen to schools if all the computers disappeared overnight?

How many topics for databases can you name?

How would you use a PowerPoint slideshow to convince your parents to increase your allowance?

Name all of the things you can do in a word processing program.

Three Step Interview
Purpose: To engage students in conversation for the purpose of analyzing and synthesizing new information.
Description: The Three Step Interview is a cooperative structure that helps students personalize their learning and listen to and appreciate the ideas and thinking of others. Active listening and paraphrasing by the interviewer develops understanding and empathy for the thinking of the interviewee.

  1. Students work in pairs. One is the interviewer, the other is the interviewee. The interviewer listens actively to the comments and thoughts of the interviewee, paraphrasing key points and significant details.

  2. Student pairs reverse roles, repeating the interview process.

  3. Each pair then joins another pair to form groups of four. Students introduce their pair partner and share what the partner had to say about the topic at hand.

Sample Three Step Interview Topics:

  1. Present a very challenging filter/sort combination problem to the students. Allow them to use the interview to discuss possible solutions.

  2. Present students with an ethical situation related to privacy and the internet. Allow students to use the interview as a means of discussing the different components of the issues at hand.

  3. Provide students a short (4-5 words) list of vocabulary to be reviewed. In the interview, they are to explain the definitions and applications of the words. By regrouping with the other interview pair, appropriate student use of vocabulary will be reinforced.

Lipton, L., & Wellman, B. (1998). Patterns and practices in the learning-focused classroom. Guilford, Vermont: Pathways Publishing.

Purpose: To engage students in about their prior knowledge of a topic.
Description: During this activity, students will have individual time to think about a question related to the topic of study. They will then pair up with a partner to share their thoughts. Finally, the pairs will select one major idea to share with the entire class.

  1. Generate a higher-level question related to the topic you are about to study.

  2. Group students into pairs.

  3. Pass out a Think-Pair-Share worksheet to each student.

  4. Give students 5 minutes to write down their individual thoughts in the "Think" section of the worksheet.

  5. Then, in pairs, have groups share their individual thoughts. Pairs should summarize their common thoughts in the "Pair" section of their worksheet.

  6. Finally, pairs choose one major idea to share with the entire class. This should be written in the "Share" section of their worksheet.

Sample Think-Pair-Share Questions:

What are the important elements of a multimedia slideshow presentation?

How would you evaluate the quality of a webpage?

What jobs might require the use of a spreadsheet?

What are some of the things you need to think about before building a database?

What are the advantages and disadvantages of using the internet for research?

Should everyone have access to the Internet?

Kagan, S. (1994). Cooperative learning. San Juan Capistrano, CA: Kagan Cooperative Learning.


Sample Think-Pair-Share Activities

Sample Think-Pair-Share for PowerPoint

Think about both of the PowerPoint presentations you have just viewed. Which presentation did you prefer? Explain why in the space below:


Pair up with a partner. Start a discussion with your partner by asking him/her which presentation they preferred. Ask your partner to explain in detail why they preferred one PowerPoint presentation to the other. Combine your ideas and summarize your discussion below:


Share with the whole class the most important points from your "Paired" discussion. To prepare for sharing, list below the three most important points you would like to share with the entire class:

  1. ___________________________________________________________

  2. ___________________________________________________________

  3. ___________________________________________________________


My question: __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


During the next 5 minutes, think about your answer to the question above. Write your response on the lines below:


Now, pair up with your partner to exchange ideas? What ideas did you have in common? Write those ideas below:


Using your "Pair" ideas, decide upon one major idea to share with the whole class. Write that major idea below:

The First Word
Purpose: To activate students' prior knowledge of a concept, idea, or skill
Description: The First Word is a variation on traditional acronyms. By going through the process of analyzing words and creating related sentences, students will gain a deeper understanding of the meaning.

  1. Assign students the name of an object, a topic, or key concept to write vertically down the side of a page.

  2. Working in small groups or on their own, students should generate a short phrase or sentence that begins with each letter of the vertical work and offers important information or key characteristics about the topic.

  3. Students can illustrate their "First Words" for posting around the classroom. Sharing "First Words" will allow students to identify important concepts that may have been left out of their own work.

Sample First Word:
S un is the star at the center of the solar system

O rbits are the paths that planets take around the Sun

L unar eclipses occur when the Moon gets blocked by the Earth

A steroids are big rocks that orbit the Sun

R ings-- the planet Saturn has them


S aturn is the sixth planet from the Sun

Y ou can see some planets with your naked eye

S ome other planets are: Earth, Venue, Mars, Jupiter, Pluto, and Neptune

T he Earth is the only planet with life on it

E very year, the Earth orbits the Sun once

M ercury is the planet closest to the Sun
Lipton, L., & Wellman, B. (1999). Patterns and practices in the learning-focused classroom. Guilford, Vermont: Pathways Publishing.


Talking Drawings

Purpose: To activate and evaluate student knowledge of a topic.
Description: In this activity, students will activate prior knowledge by creating a graphic representation of a topic before the lesson. After engaging in learning about that topic, students will re-evaluate their prior knowledge by drawing a second depiction of their topic. They will then summarize what the different drawings say to them about what they have learned.
  1. Ask students to close their eyes and think about topic X. Using the Talking Drawings worksheet, have students draw a picture of what they saw while they were thinking about topic X.

  2. Teach cognitive portion of your lesson.

  3. At the end of the lesson, ask students to elaborate upon their initial drawing by creating a new drawing that incorporates what they learned about topic X during the lesson.

  4. Have students share their before and after drawings with a partner. Students should discuss the differences between the two depictions of topic X.

  5. Finally, have students respond in writing at the bottom of their Talking Drawings worksheet. What do the two drawings tell them about what they learned during the lesson?

Wood, K. (2001). Literacy strategies across the subject areas. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Talking Drawings

  1. Close your eyes and think about ______________________________ . Now, open your eyes and draw what you saw.

  1. Now that you have learned more about ________________________ , draw a second picture to show what you learned.

  1. In the space below, tell what you have changed about your before and after pictures. Explain why you made those changes.


Possible Sentences
Purpose: To activate and evaluate student knowledge of a topic.

Description: Possible Sentences takes what students know of a topic and their familiarity with the English language sentence structure to activate prior knowledge of a topic. After new information is introduced through the use of cognitive teaching strategies, possible sentences are re-evaluated for accuracy.


  1. Generate a list of 10 words related to your lesson. These words should represent concepts that are both familiar and unfamiliar to students.

  2. Have students create 5 possible sentences by using two words in each sentence until all words are gone.

  3. Teach your lesson on the topic.

  4. After the main instruction is over, have students go back and evaluate the accuracy of their possible sentences by placing a + (for correct), - (for incorrect), or a ? (for cannot determine) beside each sentence.

  5. For sentences marked incorrect, students should write a corrected sentence. Sentences whose accuracy cannot be determined can be researched by utilizing outside resources.

Sample Words for a Possible Sentences Activity on the Internet:









web browser




Sample Words for a Possible Sentences Activity on Computer Security:













Moore, D.W., & Moore, S.A. (1986). Possible sentences. In Reading in the content areas: Improving classroom instruction 2nd edition, edited by E.K. Dishner, T.W. Bean, J.E. Readence, and D.W. Moore. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt.


In the Hot Seat
Purpose: To motivate student learning
Description: In this activity, several students will be asked to sit in the "Hot Seat" and answer questions related to the topic of study.

  1. Prior to the beginning of class, the teacher will prepare questions related to the topic of study and write them on sticky notes. Four to five questions are usually enough.

  2. Place the sticky notes underneath student desks/chairs so that they are hidden from view.

  3. At the start of the class, inform students that several of them are sitting on "Hot Seats" and will be asked to answer questions related to the topic of study for the day.

  4. Have students check their desks/chairs for the strategically placed sticky notes.

  5. Students who have questions on sticky notes will then take turns reading the question and attempting to provide an answer. Due to the nature of this motivational activity, these should be questions that students are able to answer.

Sample Hot Seat Questions:


  1. What is your favorite search engine and why?

  2. When was the last time you used the internet to complete a classroom assignment?
  3. If you had to recommend a website to a friend, which one would you pick and why?

  4. What do you think would be the impact if the Internet was gone tomorrow?

  5. Do you think that students should be allowed to use the Internet unsupervised? Why or why not?

Strategies for Reading Comprehension

Clock Buddies
[shared by Penny Juggins, Fairfax County, VA]

What Are Clock Buddies?
Clock Buddies is meant to be a quick and easy way to create pairs for partnered activities while avoiding the problem of kids always having the SAME partners. It begins with a clock face, with slots for names extending from each hour on the dial. The basic idea is that each student has his or her own copy of a Clock Buddies sheet, with the names of 12 classmates on each hour's slot. Each of those other students, in turn, has this student's name in the matching hour slot on each of their clock sheets.
How Does It Work?

When the teacher needs to quickly pair up students without it always being the same partners every time, she can say to the class: &qout;Get with your 4 o'clock buddy." Each student will pull out his or her clock buddies sheet, look at the 4 o'clock slot, and then join the partner indicated. This works because when the strategy is set up, it is done so that partners always have each other's names on their matching hour on the clock buddy chart.

Sounds Complicated...How Do I Set It Up?
The reason it may sound complicated is because you need to see it...reading about it here is about the least productive way to really get it. Nonetheless, we'll press on! Look at the example graphic that appears at the top of page 18.
This is Joey's clock buddies chart, and 12 of his classmates are listed on it. If we were to pull out Rick's chart, we'd see that Joey's name is on Rick's 1 o'clock slot, and other children's names fill out the rest of his clock.
What's the Best Way to Set It Up?
From the Massachusetts D.A.R.E. Program I get this idea: Clock buddies are chosen by giving each student a clock handout with a blank line next to each hour. Each student then goes to classmates to find a buddy for each hour. If Mike goes to Joe, Joe signs Mike's clock at ___PM and Mike signs Joe's clock for the same time. Students cannot use a name twice and all hours must be filled in. The clocks are then attached to the inside cover of their notebook or workbook. When you want students to work with a buddy, you call out a random time, for example, "It's time to work with your _____ o'clock buddy." Students will then move to and work with the buddy whose name is at that time slot. [From Massachusetts D.A.R.E.]

I've also set this up using two concentric circles, with half of the students on the inside circle, and around them in the larger circle is the other half of the group. (I usually take the left half and right half of the room, or the front half and rear half, to make the two concentric circles. That way, the opposite circle is composed of students who don't normally sit near each other.) Once the two concentric circles are formed, each student will have one person directly across from him or her. (If there is an odd number of students, the teacher joins the circle that has one fewer student in it.) Have the students in pairs across from each other write each other's name in their 1 o'clock slots. Then, tell the outer circle to move one person to the right. Now, each student has a new partner across from him or her. This would be the 2 o'clock buddy; students write each other's name in the 2 o'clock slot. Next, tell the inner circle to rotate one person to the right. Again, now new partners are matched up, and these should write each other's name in the 3 o'clock slots. Continue until all students have been all the way around or until all 12 clock slots are filled, whichever comes first. I alternate having the outer circle move, then the inner circle, then the outer, and so on. If each always moves to the right, you'll have an orderly progression all the way around.

Make an Appointment

(An alternative for clock buddies)

  1. Give the students an appointment sheet or have them make one.

  1. Have students draw a line next to each hour.

  1. Explain to students that they are important consultants who work 12-hour shifts. They are about to enter the process of making appointments.

  1. Give students three minutes to move around the class and make appointments for each hour with different classmates. After securing the student’s permission, write down the classmate’s name for each appointment slot. Each person must commit to the same time slot on each other’s sheet before he or she moves on to fill another appointment slot.

  1. Tell your students, “It is ok to introduce yourself to someone you do not know.”

  1. When all appointment slots are filled, students move back to their seats. If students do not have appointment times filled, then they may double up, or they might see a classmate that they have seen earlier, or they must schedule with the teacher for that time slot.

  1. Give the students a numbered set of questions and/or problems.

  1. The teacher might say, “Let’s respond to question #3 with your eight o’clock appointment. You have three minutes.

  1. This continues until all questions/problems have been addressed. The teacher might want to repeat questions or problems so that students are responding to the same question with different partners.

Challenge Envelopes

Purpose:  To facilitate review and/or higher level processing of a topic or concept.
Description: This activity is designed to provide students with opportunities to formulate challenging questions regarding a topic or concept and to be challenged by the questions of others.

  1. Divide the class into small groups.

  2. Give each group of students an envelope.

  3. Have each group write a challenge question on the front of the envelope. Encourage higher level questions that have prompts like:

    1. What might be…?

    2. What could be…?

    3. What if…?

  4. Have each group generate the answer or criteria for a response and include a sample response. These should all be placed inside the envelope.

  5. Scramble the envelopes and have the groups rotate the envelopes through the class. When a group receives an envelope, the question is to be addressed and then checked against the answer or criteria inside the envelope.

  6. Have each group put their own response to the question inside the envelope when they are done. They should then send the envelope back into circulation.

  7. As the envelopes begin to fill with responses, the groups are to compare their responses to the others that are in the envelopes.

Rogers, S., Ludington, J., & Graham, S. (1999). Motivation and learning: A teacher's guide to building excitement for learning and igniting the drive for quality. Evergreen, CO: Peak Learning Systems.

ABC Brainstorm
What Is An ABC Brainstorm?

Before having your students talk about a major topic, it's essential to activate their background knowledge about it. One way to do this is the ABC Brainstorm. The idea is meant to be fairly simple. Students try to think of a word or phrase associated with the topic, matched to each letter of the alphabet.

How Does It Work?
Have students list all the letters of the alphabet down a sheet of paper (or use the printable ABC Brainstorm sheet available through ReadingQuest), leaving room beside each letter to write out the rest of a word or phrase. Let them work individually at first, thinking of as many words as they can that could be associated with the topic you identify. Do note: The topic should be big and general enough that students can actually think of a lot of possible terms. Then, in no particular order, let them begin filling in the blanks beside each letter of the alphabet. For instance, if the topic were World War II, students might list Allies, Bombers, Concentration Camps, Dachau, Europe, French Resistance, Germany, Hitler, Italy, Japan, and so on.

It seems to work well if you give students enough time to think of a lot of ideas, but then let them pair up or work in small groups to fill in blanks for letters they had not yet completed. In this way, you can let the brainstorming function like a Think-Pair-Share. This would be the "Pair" phase. Then, go around the room or get students to report out ("Share") possible terms for the different letters of the alphabet. Be open to a wide range of possibilities! Make sure students know that you're not looking for exact answers, just justifiable and relevant ones.

What Sorts of Topics Are Good for an ABC Brainstorm?

I say, keep it more broad and relevant. Topics like government, Islam, war (or a specific war), the Great Depression, or a broad geographical region are probably pretty fertile for an ABC Brainstorm. Topics previously studied, about which students know much, can be good recap brainstorms. This might include topics like The Gilded Age, Progressivism, a given decade (the Sixties or the Roaring Twenties, for instance), or capitalism. It's doubtful whether a narrow topic (Saddam Hussein, Circular Flow Diagram, the Constitution) would provide enough latitude for a good ABC Brainstorm, but you won't know until you try.

A “wordsplash” is a collection of key terms or concepts taken forma written passage – a chapter in a textbook, a newspaper or magazine article – which the students are about to read. The terms selected represent important ideas that the teacher wants students to attend to when they actually do the reading later, but initially the students’ task is to make predictive statements about how each of the terms relates to the title or main focus of the reading. Most terms selected for a wordsplash are familiar vocabulary for students. The novelty of the terms is only the way in which the terms are associated with the new topic.
Display selected terms randomly and at angles on a visual (overhead or chart). Students brainstorm and generate complete statements (not just words or phrases) which predict the relationship between each term and the broader topic. Once students have generated statements for each term they turn to the printed material, read to check the accuracy of their predictive statements and revise where needed.
When students have read and revised their predictions encourage them to quiz each other on the correct information.
Suggestions, Applications and Variations

  • Create a wordsplash prior to viewing a film; pause the film (video) periodically for students to discuss/revise predictions

  • Create a wordsplash prior to having a guest speaker. If time permits share the students’ predictions with the speaker in advance of his presentation

  • Create a picture wordsplash. “What do you think these pictures have to do with Christopher Columbus and his voyage?”

  • Use the wordsplash as a summarizing strategy. Students read and then create their own wordsplash of what they consider to be the key terms or ideas in the passage.

Example wordsplash for Amelia Earhart. (See next page)

Step 1 – Students predict

  • Amelia Earhart was under-prepared for her last trip – that is why she crashed.

  • George Putnam was a passenger in her plane.

  • She had been flying for 23 years.

  • She was 39 when she died.

  • Her plane went down in Nikumaroro.

  • She was weary and had run out of water.

  • She started flying in 1897.

  • Her plane was considered an attractive cage.

  • She crossed the Equator during one of her flights.

  • She was born in Kansas and wanted to be a social worker.

Step 2 – Students read the article and revise predictions.

Step 3 – Students quiz each other to insure that they can now make accurate connections between the topic and each of the terms.
Anticipation Guides
Anticipation Guides are an effective way to activate thoughts and information about a topic. Before reading a selection, students respond to several statements that challenge or support their preconceived ideas relating to key concepts in the reading. Because student answers are based on their own thoughts and experiences, they should be able to explain and defend their positions in large- and small-group discussions. This process arouses student interest, sets purposes for reading, and encourages higher-level thinking - all important aspects of pre-reading motivation.

Students also are encouraged to make predictions about the major ideas in the selection before they start reading. Anticipation Guides also can be used after reading to evaluate how well students understood the material and whether or not misconceptions have been corrected. Anticipation Guides can be used in any context area and work equally well with print and non-print media such as films/videos and lectures.

Step 1: Identify the major concepts and details in the reading. (What information or ideas should be the focus of the students’ attention?)

Step 2: Consider student experiences or beliefs that the reading will challenge or support. (What do students already know or believe about the selection they will be reading?)

Step 3: Create three to five statements that may challenge or modify your students’ pre-reading understanding of the material. Include some statements that will elicit agreement between the students and the information in the text.

Step 4: Present the guide on the board, on an overhead projector, or on paper. Leave space on the left for individual or small-group response. As each statement is discussed, students must justify their opinions. You may wish to have students first fill out the guide individually and then defend their responses to others in small groups or within a class discussion.

Step 5: After reading, return to the Anticipation Guide to determine whether students changed their minds regarding any of the statements. Have students locate sections in the reading that support their decisions.

Step 6: Another option for responses is to include a column for predictions of the author’s beliefs. This can be completed after students have read the selection and can lead into your discussion of the reading.
Example – Anticipation Guide for Photosynthesis – Mark each statement “true” or “false.”

Green plants cannot grow without sunlight.

Many plants get their food from the soil.

Photosynthesis only occurs in green plants.

Aquatic plants get their nutrients from water.

Acceleration is not really a teaching strategy. It is more of a process essential to students who need “catching up.” Combined with remediation and extra-help, acceleration is designed to build vocabulary essential to understanding.
It all relates to vocabulary
The singular importance of vocabulary has become a powerful insight to raising achievement. The words we know and use are indicators of the way we organize the world around us and how we organize our learning.
The creation of labels (words) is our tool for fostering new perceptions and increasing learning. Vocabulary instruction should be a focal point of learning, especially for students impacted by poverty. Vocabulary instruction is excellent as an advanced organizer for acceleration, if it is taught in context. (Having students look up definitions and write a sentence with the word teaches students that learning is boring and isolating.)
We know that vocabulary deficiencies impact students’ reading in all grades, and especially in grades K through 3. Students can call words but have trouble with comprehension. Students have the most difficulty with expository (textbooks, essays, articles, reports, workplace documents – anything that gives information or purpose) comprehension and vocabulary.

A child of poverty may have a vocabulary of 5,000 words by the time he/she reaches kindergarten age. Middle income children will have a vocabulary of 9,000 words by kindergarten age and children of upper income families will have a vocabulary of 15,000 to 20,000 words by kindergarten age. (National Institute of Health, 1999)


(2 days to 1 week preview)

Re-Teaching: Based on Classroom Assessments

Main Lesson(s)

  • Combined with remediation, acceleration “catches students up.”

  • Acceleration functions as scaffolding for future learning and gives learners advance structure.

  • The best ratio seems to be approximately 60% to 70% acceleration and 30% to 40% remediation.

  • Only accelerate “most essential” concepts/skills.

Implementation: Two days to one week before a lesson or unit, preview key vocabulary and essential objectives/standards using any appropriate strategy, i.e. vocabulary maps, graphic organizers, story maps or other activating strategies.

Word Maps (Charts)
Word maps and charts are graphic representations that help students visualize the components of a definition. The map includes three relationships essential to a rich definition:

  1. What is it?

  2. What is it like?

  3. What are some examples?

Word maps teach students the qualities of a definition. Too often, students have a narrow concept of what the meaning of a word encompasses. Many students think of definitions as simple, dictionary-like statement characterized by little elaboration and personal comment. Word maps encourage students to personally integrate their background knowledge with a concept. Once students understand the qualities of definition, they apply this knowledge to expand their own vocabularies and to master unfamiliar concepts.


  1. Explain to students that in order to understand new vocabulary, they need to know what makes up a definition of a word. Go over the three questions that make up a definition.

  2. Introduce students to the word map, and describe its parts. Begin with a familiar concept such as ice cream.

  3. Ask, “What is it?” (food, dessert). Write these descriptors on the map. (Tell students that their answers should be general.) Next, ask students, “What is it like?” Record their responses on the map (cold, creamy, delicious, soft, hard, etc.) Explain that these qualities are properties that make ice cream different from other foods and desserts.

  4. Ask for examples (chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, butter pecan, etc.) Encourage students to use information from their background experiences as they complete their maps.

  5. Model the process and guide the students through several other examples.

  6. Encourage students to use maps independently as they study. Tell them that word maps and charts help them to learn new, difficult concepts and that they can use them to study for exams.


What is it?

What is it like?

What are some examples?


Vocabulary Overview Guide

The Vocabulary Overview Guide provides a structure that students can use as they learn new, more difficult concepts. The strategy helps students develop an association with a significant clue to a word’s meaning as well as determine its definition. The Vocabulary Overview Guide is especially valuable in that it encourages students to list descriptive statements in their own words and focuses their attention on the important categories related to the main topic of a selection.

The Vocabulary Overview Guide can be used successfully to build vocabulary in all content areas and is particularly appropriate when starting a new unit or studying for tests.

  1. Model the use of the Vocabulary Overview Guide on an overhead transparency or chalkboard. Guide students to follow along as they fill in their own copy. This process can be used both before and after students read a text.

  2. Identify with students the main topic of the selection. The main topic may be signaled by a chapter title or if a segment of a chapter is being read, by a heading or sub-heading.

  3. Identify with students the important categories of information within this main topic through a preview of the selection to be read. For example, if the main topic is “rocks,” categories may include “igneous,” “metamorphic,” and “sedimentary.”

  4. Select the first category discussed in the reading and guide students as they skim to identify new and difficult words related to this category. Add these words to their vocabulary overview guide.

  5. Complete with students the definition for one of their words. Using information from the text, students should write the word’s definition on the designated lines.

  6. Model the linking of this definition with the students’ background knowledge. Guide students as they decide upon a personal clue that connects the word with something they already know.

  7. Guide students as they develop the definitions and clues for the rest of the words.

  8. Guide students as they use the Vocabulary Overview Guide to study. Students may be assigned to work with a partner as they use the guide to learn the new words. Model the studying of each word by first revealing only the word, then uncovering the clue if needed, and finally uncovering the definition.
  9. Encourage students to continue to add to their definitions as they learn more about each word. In this way, they will connect known words with new words, and they will help them to remember.

Examples: Word – Granite Work - rambunctious

Clue – grey/rocky mountains Clue – my cousin Joe Definition - ____________ Definition _________

Vocabulary Overview Guide

Student Checklist


  • Identify the main topic.

  • Identify the category to which your words belong.

  • Write in your first new word.

  • Locate and list important definitions. Use clues from the text, the glossary, or seek help from a dictionary.

  • Think about the word and its meaning. Write in your own clue underneath the word. Connect the meaning with something you know or have experienced.

  • Complete the guide for other words related to this category.

Study Hints:

  • Think about the category and the words. Think about what you know about the topic.

  • Study each word, one at a time

    • Cover the clue and meaning. Recite both if you can.

    • Uncover the clue if necessary. If the clue doesn’t jog your memory, then uncover the meaning.

    • Review words frequently until you know them well.

Word – granite
Clue – Grey, Rocky Mountains
Definition – stone, building material, a very hard natural igneous rock formation of visibly crystalline texture formed essentially of quartz
Word – rambunctious
Clue – My cousin Joe
Definition – Unruly, uncontrollable exuberance

Interactive Notation System for Effective Reading and Thinking (INSERT)

INSERT is a study aid that uses a set of symbols to help students monitor their comprehension of the text. During the reading the students must constantly make decisions about their reactions to the text: “I knew that,” “I don’t understand that,” etc. They note their reactions in the margin of the text using a set of symbols.

For a first time, limit the number of symbols to 3 or 4. As students become more proficient, more symbols can be added. See table below.


* = I agree

X = I disagree

F = Fact

# = Main idea

+ = Supporting detail

C = Cause

! = Wow

? = I don’t understand

O = Opinion

E = Effect

When students complete their reading, the teacher will begin the discussion by having them look for a certain symbol in their text. The teacher might want to begin with the question mark so that he/she can first clarify any areas students did not understand, or he/she might want to begin with the exclamation mark and any ideas that really caught the reader’s attention.

Example: Early History of the Atom, Part I
Have students read part one in groups of two. For this activity, appropriate symbols could be !, ?, F and O. You may add new symbols as necessary.

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