Starters, Middles & Plenaries - Active Learning Strategies
Can think on the spot/ no
Needs some preparation/
2. Key Word
4. Topic Tennis
5. Taking Sides
6. Values Continuum
7. Gimme 5
8. And the answer is…
13.Who Am I?
24.Odd one out
27.Maps from memory
32.Thinking on the
34.Pass The Buck
37.Quick off the Draw
44.Who Wants to Be A
45.Card Sort –
46.Pass the Parcel
48. Group Roles
Version of hangman. A volunteer from the class chooses to be the person
walking the cliff. Draw them on the end of the cliff. Students call out
letters, teacher (or student) writes correct letters into the word and notes
incorrect ones on w/b as a reminder. For every incorrect letter, the person
moves further along the cliff, finally falling into the shark’s mouth. This can
be made kinaesthetic by having a student move along an imaginary cliff.
2. Key Word Pictionary
Split class into 2 teams and split w/b I half drawing a line down the middle.
One member of each team comes to the w/b, the teacher shows them both
the same word to be drawn. Students draw the word in their half of the w/b
and the first team to call out the correct word wins a point.
Write anagrams of subject key words which have been previously introduced
on the board and students unscramble them.
4. Topic Tennis
A fun form of brainstorming. Students should be in threes. The teacher
names a topic. 2 students take it in turns to say words relating to the topic
(a bit like word association but do not necessarily have to directly associate,
just be linked to the topic). They keep going until one person can’t go on.
The third student notes down the words and these are fed back as a whole
class. Good for introducing a new topic to see what they already think/know
or for revision.
5. Taking Sides
Teacher writes statements on w/b. In pairs, students discuss if they agree or
disagree with them. Feedback as a class or make kinaesthetic by placing
‘agree’ ‘disagree’ and ‘don’t know’ on opposite walls and students move to
the position chosen and should be prepared to justify their responses.
6. Values Continuum
Similar to taking sides – but pose a statement and one end is “agree” the
other is “disagree” – students to stand in a position along the line that most
reflects their view of how much they agree/disagree. Again students should
be prepared to justify their responses.
7. Gimme 5
Good for AfL at the end of a lesson, ask students to tell you e.g. “5 things
you’ve learnt today” or could be broken down into “5 key words, 4 case
studies, 3 strengths, 2 weaknesses, 1 question you have” – and can be done
individually or between a whole class.
8. And the answer is…
Turn the question making on the students! Display a list of words that are
the “answers” – they should make up a suitable question that has the word
as an answer. To make it a group activity – put words individually in
envelopes – students one at a time take an ‘answer’ out and orally make up
as many questions as possible. When they can think of no more, next
students takes an ‘answer’ out and repeats the process. Good for revision.
To turn into an introduction activity – once more ‘answer’ words are taken
out, students can start to guess what links the words together to identify
the topic focus.
Students have 4 minutes to tell the 3 main points of the lesson to 5 people.
Fast and effective plenary but can also be used as a starter by changing it to
questions – 4 minutes to tell 5 people the 3 questions they would like
answered on a particular topic.
10. KWL Grid
A 3 column grid with the headings: What I already Know/ What I Wan to
know/ What I have Learned. When starting a topic, students brainstorm
everything they already know and write in the K column, then write some
questions in the W column and at the end of the lesson complete the L
column. Can be used in a standalone lesson or scaffolded across a series of
lessons on a topic.
Students have key words on bingo cards (these can be prepared, but jus as
easy to ask them to create a grid with e.g. 6 or 9 squares in and write in
words from a given number displayed!) The teacher reads out definitions or
questions which have a word as the answer, and students mark each box if
they have the word. Shout ‘Bingo’ for the first to cross out all their words!=
Teacher writes some key words/concepts on the w/b, fairly spaced apart. 2
volunteers come up to the front to play head-to-head. Teacher asks a
question or defines the word/concept – first student to “splat” the correct
words wins that round. Winner stays on and the other students can
nominate the next contender.
13. Who Am I?
Students in groups write a word/concept related to what they are learning
about – and place it on another students forehead so that everyone in the
group knows who they are but the individual doesn’t/ Students then have to
ask questions to find out who or what they are – but the questions can only
be ones with a yes or no answer. Could be made kinaesthetic by moving
around the room to ask different people questions.
Similar to Who Am I? But instead students substitute “am I” for “polygobble”
for example “Is polygobble an ethical issue?” “Did polygobble do the Bobo
doll experiment?” – this one is better for replacing verbs so for practical
subjects – then students can replace the verb for ‘polygobble’ and all tense
variations of it!
Students combine ideas to find as many examples of something as possible.
They begin by writing down 2 ideas of their own. They combine ideas in
pairs, then in 4s by joining another pair – this could also continue to 8s as
well, dependent on class size/topic. To add deeper thinking to it – final
groups must decide on 2 final ideas that they all agree on.
16. Reflection Alley
Good for thinking and decision making. Pose a scenario/prediction/question
– one volunteer student will be asking peers for their input to help make a
decision/judgement/answer. The rest of the class line up in 2 lines facing
each other, leaving a pathway down the middle – this is ‘alley.’ As the
volunteer walks down – student can ask their peers for their thoughts on the
scenario in question. This ensures all students are prepared to potentially be
asked! At the end of the ‘alley’ – the students makes a decision/answer
based on peers’ input. This can be made more challenging by preparing ‘role
cards’ which the teacher gives to students in the ‘alley’ – so challenging
them to think from a certain perspective rather than their own.
Simple way of asking students to measure how confident they are that
they’ve met lesson objectives or an answer to a question. Students give
thumbs up – if they are very confident that they know the answer, thumbs
sideways if they’re unsure or think they partially know, and thumbs down if
they don’t know or think they’ve made little or no progress. Can be
developed on by teacher questioning.
18. Exit Cards
At the end of a lesson or topic – students should complete an exit card and
hand it in on their way out – cards can have 2 questions on “what is the
most important thing you have learned this lesson?” and “what would you
like to do more on/what questions do you still have?” – this can be
particularly good for student feedback in terms of activities/topics they
have particularly enjoyed doing so can inform future planning.
19. Find Someone Who…
Good kinaesthetic activity. Can be used at any time within a topic. Teacher
gives students a sheet consisting of a table with statements on and a space
underneath each statement. Students must circulate the room and find
someone who meets that statements’ description/criteria, and write their
name in the space underneath the statement. For example, statements
could be “can tell you the 4 types of sleep disorders” “can give a strength of
social learning theory.” Encourages students to consider/revise what
they’ve learnt in a fun way. For extra challenge – you can state that a
student’s name can be used once! When a student has a name for every
statement – check by asking the individual students whether they actually
can do what it says they can!
20. 4 Corners
A good activity for exam revision! The class can generate their own
questions to revise a topic, or questions can be given by teachers ( a large
number needed for this activity). Choose 4 students to stand in each corner
of the room. The rest of the class become an ‘audience.’ Students in the
corners must ask a revision question to another student – but can only ask
the person to their immediate left or right (so opposite corner is always
safe!) – if that person answers correctly, the person who asked it joins the
audience and nominates a person to take their corner place. The person
who got it right has their turn to ask a question, and so it continues. If the
person answering gets it wrong, they must join the audience after
nominating someone from the audience to take their place – this is done by
asking the audience to raise their hands if they think they know the answer
and choosing someone new. Aim is for 4 people in the corners to remain as
they will be crowned the winners and get a prize!
21. 5 Ws
Good starter for introducing a topic. Display an image – and students should
try to answer the 5 Ws: Who? When? Why? Where? What?
Split the class in half and assign each half a colour e.g. red/blue. Red team
have to get from top to bottom and blue team have to get from left to right
– although not necessarily in a straight line. The teacher begins by asking a
question for the letter in the middle of the grid e.g. “what T is a monocular
depth cue?” – the correct answer wins the team a blob of their colour in
their square and they choose the next letter. If they get a question wrong –
it’s now the other team’s turn – each team must start from the centre of
the grid, then they can choose where they go from then on. The first team
to get from one side to the other wins. This can be made a smaller group
activity by preparing and laminating a pack of blockbuster boards and
23. Word Limit
If students need to have notes or summaries of e.g. a study, a theory, story
plot – encourage them to be analytical and choose only the key pieces of
information by giving them a word limit for different parts. This is especially
good for experiments/studies – e.g.
Aim – 10 words max. Method – 30 words max. Evaluation – 30 words max.
Really encourages them to think and be concise without losing meaning (and
means they are not trying to copy as they have to think!)
24. Odd One Out
Write 2-4 triplets of subject key words on the board. Students have to
identify and explain which the odd one out is. Encourage students to use the
words both and whereas.
25. Mini Crossword
Draw a completed mini crossword with subject key words as answers – and
students write the ‘clues.’
Fun ad often challenging way of getting students thinking and recalling key
terms! Display a series of images that should imitate or spell our a key word
– for example, the limbic system could be displayed as pictures of:
leg (limb) – biro (bic) – solar system (system).
27. Maps from Memory
Good teamwork/thinking skills activity. In small groups students have to
memorise and collectively reproduce a map/diagram/chart. Can be done in
3 ways: 1) visual is on teacher’s desk – students come up one at a time, look
at it for 20 seconds then returns to group, then next student from the group
goes up to desk, and so on. 2) Students individually see the visual and
reproduce their own from memory, the come together and collectively
decide from each individual’s what is in the right place and create a new
‘map from memory.’ 3) Groups look at the visual together before teacher
takes it away. Group then collectively draws it from memory. Good for
models in psychology like the working memory model.
28. Roving Reporter
Any information can be turned into a news report e.g. a news report of the
biological theory of aggression. It can be done individually or in
pairs/groups. E.g. in fours:
• 1 students announces the day’s main headlines providing the ‘dong’ of a bell
sound effect between each one.
• 1 students is a newsreader in the TV studio, they summarise the main news
• 1 student is the roving reporter – they provide the details.
• 1 student Is a witness who is interviewed by the roving reporter.
29. Question Catch
Teacher throws a bean bag/soft ball when asking questions. This makes
questioning a kinaesthetic activity and can engage students who don’t
normally volunteer to answer. Students can have the option of throwing the
ball to someone else and ‘passing’ if they don’t know the answer. This could
also be played in teams so the teacher throws the ball to each team in turn
– if they can answer it, they score 3 points. If they can’t, they throw t to
another team to score 2 points, if they can’t answer it is thrown again for 1
30. Heads Together
This ensures all students are involved in Q & a ROUTINES. Put students into
groups of 4 and ask them to number themselves 1-4. Tell them you will ask a
series of progressively more challenging questions that all students will be
expected to answer – in fact they will not know who will be called upon to
answer the question.
Ask the first question and say “heads together” – students have to discuss
the answer to the question and ALL must be able to verbalise it. Call out a
number between 1 and 4. If you call number 3, all number 3s must put their
hand up and you then choose one of them to answer the question. Ask the
other number 3s if they agree with the answer and if they’d like to add
anything further. Ask the next question and repeat the process. Could be
used as a plenary activity or could be turned into a competition of scoring is
31. Word Snake
A key term activity. Encourages literacy. Give students a snake whose body
is broken down into squares. Students must start from one end with a key
word in the square and work their way up/down the snake - the next
square’s key word must start with the last letter of the previous word. The
aim is to get the snake completed!
32. Thinking on the Spot
Good plenary or revision activity – create a PowerPoint with a timer on each
slide. Can be used in a variety of ways, but students have a set time in
which to name/describe/explain something. Different timed
question/naming activity on each slide.
33. Random Generator
Can be sued in 2 ways: 1) Have each student’s name on a PowerPoint slide ,
ask a question and ‘stop’ the slide show randomly – that student has to
answer (they can be allowed one pass!) 2) Put a different topic/key term on
each slide, nominate or get a volunteer student, they shout ‘stop’ and
whatever is on the slide they must answer!
34. Pass The Buck
Great activity for exam revision! Can be done in 2 ways: 1) Give each group
a question, they have 5 minutes to start the answer on an A3 sheet. When
times is up, pass the paper onto the next group who have to continue the
answer from where it was left until the last group who should then
‘complete’ the answer. You can let students cross out any information they
don’t think is relevant and add in things. At the end the original question
should be passed back to the groups so they can see how the answer ended
up. 2) Give students each a different question and d as a mind-map activity:
Students should add one or more things they would include in that answer.
When their times is up, pass the paper along, and now the group must add
information to it – making sure they write down something that hasn’t
already been written. This is great for deeper thinking as the later they
receive a question the more challenging this becomes!
35. Diamond 9
A good ranking activity encouraging explanation and justification skills. Can
be dine individually – give a student 9 facts and the rank in a diamond shape
from most to least relevant to a topic, or could be done in groups – this
encourages students to discuss a topic and reach a consensus of views
within the group.
36. Running Dictation
Can be a good starter activity or a more interesting way to make notes!
Students need to be in pairs. Students have a sheet with the same prose on,
only student A has different ‘gaps’ in information to student B. Student A
starts reading, and stops when the get to a blank – student B continues, and
A fills in what is missing. Continue the process until both have completed
37. Quick off the Draw!
A great way to make answering questions fun – and can be competitive and
collaborative. Type questions onto different cards/slips of paper and
number them from least to most challenging. In airs/groups, there needs to
a be a ‘runner’ – who will come and collect the questions from you. They
come up and get question1 – take it back to the group, research/discuss and
come up with a written answer which is brought to you. You then check it,
and send them back if they need to add/change anything, or if it is correct,
give them question 2. Can be fun and competitive if there is a prize for the
first to complete all questions correctly!
A good main activity for encouraging teamwork, independent enquiry and
thinking skills if you’re delivering new content. For example, for students
learning about 4 psychology studies: divide them into groups of 4 (if a big
group – have 8 groups, 2 groups each will work on the same study). Create a
sheet/pack with the information they need on one study. Marketplace is
divided into 4 stages: Stage 1 – as a group they must present their study in a
poster with a word limit of 40 words, but can use as many
images/numbers/symbol as they wish. They also decide on a ‘stallholder’
who will be ‘trading’ information later on. Stage 2 – stallholders remain
where they are and act as experts for their study, while the rest of the
groups’ members are ‘customers’ and visit other market stalls to get
information about the other 3 studies. Stage 3 – groups reform, and share
what they have found this time ‘teaching’ the ‘stallholder’ their new
information. Stage 4 can vary dependent on requirements – can be to use
the information and apply it to an exam question, or a further investigative
task adding new knowledge for example adding strengths and weaknesses to
each of the studies they learnt about.
39. Pub Quiz!
A fun team activity for revision for an exam or at the end of a topic. Create
various rounds: a picture round where you’re looking for a certain
name/term, an anagram round, a T/F round, a “name that study” round.
Make it competitive – have a prize for each round and an overall winner!
40. Card Loop/Dominoes
Create a set of cards where the answer to the first question is on the second
card, and so on. Give one card to each students, making sure you know who
has the first question and ask that person to read their question. Students
have to listen carefully and be ready to call out if they have the answer –
then they read their question and the process continues. This is also good
for key words and definitions, or key studies and their findings.
Like the traditional game, this encourages students to think deeply about
the meanings and how to define/express key terms. Can be done in 2 ways:
1) As a whole class, have a volunteer come to the front, teacher gives them
a card with a key term on which they must describe to the class without
using certain words (e.g. AMYGDALA - cannot use words: limbic system,
brain, biology). Students should try to guess which term is being described!
2) Create a set of taboo cards for each topic – students can work in
oairs/small groups and use the same process. These cards could also double
up for revision games on “Who Am I” – they can hold up the card so their
partner/group can see and ask questions to find out who they are.
A slightly longer but good thinking skills starter to introduce a new theory,
for example. Create a set of fact cards where students must use the
information to answer “who” “what” “why” (or similar questions depending
on topic. Encourages students to make deductions based on information
A good plenary for measuring students’ understanding of new
information/terms. Using wipeout PowerPoint template – there are 9 words
displayed, 5 are correct, 4 are wipeouts. Students should give one
fact/word that was learnt in today’s lesson – before they/you click on the
square – they should tell you something about it (e.g. what does that word
mean? How does that word fit into our topic?) Can give a sticker/prize if
they chose a correct one!
44. Who Wants to be a Millionnaire?
Good interactive plenary/revision game as per the TV gameshow! Can split
the class into teams so if one gets a question wrong the other team gets a
go – you could also involve peers by having classmates as “phone a friend”
and using them all on a “ask the audience.”
45. Card Sort – differentiated version
Can be used to classify, categorise, sequence, prioritise or rank order
information. Ways to make a card sort differentiated include:
• Having cards with big points and little points on – put big points I
bold, little in normal text – students should match little supporting
points to the big points
• Include more cards for different ability students – give them more
points to consider
• Give students free reign to devise their own way of
grouping/classifying points and write their own headings on blank
• Ask students to identify the irrelevant points/ rank order in terms of
relevance/ add a further little point of their own to each of the big
• Note down only one key word from each point card and use these
words later to structure a written answer/essay
46. Pass the Parcel
Great for exam practice! Either – give students questions or they can devise
their own – they spend some time making sure they know the
answers/points to include in answers. They should keep the questions
hidden from everyone else! Like the party game – play some music whilst
passing round a ball – stop the music – and that person has to answer a
question (easiest by the teacher asking the first one, from the onwards, the
person who answered last is the person who asks their question the next
time the music stops). Can have sweets/prizes for those who answer
47. Hot Seating
Good for end of topic/pre-exam revision. Students go through the topic and
prepare possible questions about it, one person gets in the ‘hot-seat’ and
answers questions from the class. Also good for hot seating as a particular
theory/study e.g. Sociology – students can ‘hot seat’ as a functionalist –
students should ask questions such as “what do you think is the best type of
family? Why?” and functionalist should answer as best as they can from that
48. Group Roles
Excellent way of getting groups focussed and encouraging skills as well as
knowledge. In a group based activity – give each students a particular role:
scribe – who notes down the groups ideas/answers, Observer – who will
focus on teamwork and how well the groups works together, they feed back
on this at the end, spy – who (at a given time by the teacher) is allowed to
wander and listen/observe other groups’ ideas and bring them back to their
own (a good way of sharing knowledge!) – timekeeper = who keeps track of
how much time is left and keeps everyone on track for completing the task
49. Top Trumps
Revision cards with a twist – students create revision cars with a summary of
a topic/study but also using their knowledge they rate it against criteria
e.g. psychology studies: rate 1-5 on ethics, validity, and usefulness. Can be
then used as general revision cards or also played as the top trumps game as
a revision activity – for differentiation you could state that students, as well
as the traditional “scoring” – must be able to describe the other person’s
study when given the name, to be able to take their card!
50. Traffic Lights
Create a set of 3 cards: red/amber/green and have them tied together with
a treasury tag. These serve many purposes:
• Used for yes/no/don’t know questions – a good way of getting the
whole class involved as they hold up the appropriate card. Use
similarly for agree/unsure/disagree, or true/false/unsure.
• Use to assess confidence against lesson objectives
• Use as a means of support whilst circulating the class, students can
leave the cards green facing up if they are happy they know what
they are doing, amber if they are ok but might need help, red if they
are completely stuck and would like help.