The Jumpstart Model

jumpstart image

The Jumpstart model is a structured approach to lesson/unit planning.  Its use ensures that your unit of study will include activities that will make use of active learning approaches, and will present a coherent and well-organized experience for the students.  The use of the Jumpstart model is recommended by Durham College because it supports our philosophy of a commitment to student success, and our academic direction of developing excellence in teaching.

Planning Model Downloadable PowerPoint Document — This PowerPoint slide presentation explains the Jumpstart unit/lesson planning model recommended by Durham College, and how the model works.

Blank Unit Template Downloadable Word Document — This template is a great way to plan both lessons and units. Click on the link above to download a blank copy of the jumpstart template.

The Jumpstart Model Video

The following video gives an overview of the Jumpstart Model and how it is applied to teaching. Click anywhere on the video to begin watching.

Connection Activities

Connection Activities capture students' attention and help connect the lesson to students' previous studies, their existing knowledge, and their overall program of study. Connection Activities should, ideally, lead the student to actively bring existing knowledge to consciousness, because we know that new knowledge is better understood, retained, and retrieved if associated with existing knowledge. Connection Activities can be brief (5-10 minutes) and should relate to the overall lesson outcome or topic. You should have ONE Connection Activity for the entire lesson. Connection Activities help to address the following questions:

  • Why should I learn this?
  • How will I use this in my life and work?
  • How does this relate to what I already know or have experienced?

Connection Activity Ideas

Click on any activity idea below to learn more about that specific activity.

Case Study
Case studies can be used to present realistic, complex, and contextually rich situations and to demonstrate the application of a theory or concept to real-life situations. As a Connection Activity you can present a case study that cannot be solved without knowledge to be gained from the lesson. Throughout the lesson you can refer back to the case and students can work on developing a solution based on the information from the lesson. You can write you own case studies based on your professional experiences, from current events, from historical sources, or you can also find published cases from textbooks and online case study collections including The National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science. Example - Analyzing an Organization Before you get started on this module, think about the organization you currently work for or think about one that you are currently networking with for employment opportunities and answer the following questions:
  • What are some of the characteristics you personally admire about this organization? Why?
  • What kinds of opportunities are available within the organization for career management and development?
  • Would you refer a colleague or friend to this organization? Why?
Example - Inappropriate Social Media Comments The dramatic growth of social media use in Canada on such sites as Facebook has raised new legal issues for employers and employees where employee rights and discipline are concerned. One such issue is whether or not an employee's off-duty conduct online (i.e. posting personal status updates, photos or comments on Facebook at home etc.) can get that employee dismissed. In short, the answer is yes. Example 1 "Justin Hutchings of London, Ontario, learned the hard way about the consequences of making an inappropriate Facebook post. Mr. Hutchings posted an offensive comment on teen bullying victim Amanda Todd's memorial page, which was open to the public. Because Mr. Hutchings had identified his employer, Big & Tall Menswear, on his own profile, the employer received a direct complaint about the offensive post. Mr. Hutchings was fired for conduct that was considered contrary to the company's policy of treating all individuals honourably and, arguably, for conduct that would bring the employer into disrepute." Example 2 "One Bell Technical Solutions technician who made several insulting remarks about his manager on Facebook was suspended and another technician who regularly complained about his job and made disparaging comments about both his manager and the company on his Facebook page was dismissed." Regardless of whether employees intend their posts to be relatively private, courts and arbitrators have tended to conclude that posts on social media sites are easily disseminated and may be considered public if viewed by "friends." Therefore, how employees present themselves outside of the workplace can have a direct impact on disciplinary procedures. Should an employee be disciplined for inappropriate social media comments? Do you agree or disagree?
Comic Strip
comic strip example The use of a comic strip can help to spark reflection and get students thinking about the lesson topic. You can also use a comic to present a case scenario that can be used to introduce the topic. You can create your own custom comic strips using Storyboard That.
Discussion Question
answer garden example

The posing of a discussion question as a Connection Activity can be used to invite students to share their opinions and experiences about the lesson topic and can encourage multiple viewpoints. Consider asking questions that will encourage students to relate to the lesson topic on a more personal level. For example, "What does x term mean to you?"; "What experience have you had with x topic?" You can pair students or group them in threes or fours, and let them discuss the question. This encourages participation from all students, even those who may be hesitant speaking up in a whole-class discussion.

You can also use the Discussion Tool in DC Connect to facilitate an online discussion, or you can use a tool such as AnswerGarden to create a word cloud of student responses.
Image
twin girls in a crowd

An image that sparks discussion or reflection can make a great connection activity. You can find a variety of images on Flickr that can be used as prompts, and the New York Times also has a weekly feature called What's Going On in This Picture? that can provide some inspiration.

K-W-L Chart
kwl chart image

K-W-L charts are graphic organizers that help students organize information before, during and after a lesson. They can be used to engage students in a new topic, activate prior knowledge, and monitor learning. A K-W-L chart typically consists of three columns:

  • K - What do you Know about the topic?
  • W - What do you Want to know?
  • L - What did you Learn?
As a Connection Activity you can ask students to complete the K and W sections of the chart. Students can do this individually or in small groups.
News Story
The sharing of a relevant news story that relates to the topic of the lesson can be a very engaging Connection Activity. You can easily stay up to date on relevant news through Google News and several new sites have education-related resources including the Globe and Mail and the New York Times.
Poll or Survey
A poll that asks students to share their opinion about the lesson topic can help spark discussion and connect students to the lesson. You can create an online poll using Fluid Surveys or Micropoll, or in class you can ask students to step to a side or corner of the room that represents their response.
Prediction
prediction chart As a Connection Activity you can present a scenario related to your lesson and have students make a prediction based on the scenario. You can use an online polling tool such as Socrative or Poll Everywhere to gather students' predictions, or have them note them individually and then reflect on them during the lesson. You can also use a Pause and Predict strategy with video where you play a small clip of a video and then pause it and ask students to predict what will happen next. This can encourage discussion related to the lesson topic and activate students' prior knowledge.
Pre-Test
An ungraded pre-test can be used as a Connection Activity to test for existing knowledge and preview important content. You can have students complete the pre-test individually, or in small groups to encourage discussion about the responses. You can use an online polling tool such as Socrative or Poll Everywhere to gather anonymous responses, or you can create an ungraded quiz in DC Connect. pre test example image
Quick-Write
 listen for prompt. Think for one minute. Write for three minutes

A Quick-write activity involves posing a question and giving students a set amount of time (from one to a few minutes) to respond in writing, or with a quick-draw activity you can ask students to draw their response. As a Connection Activity you can pose a question related to the lesson topic that taps into prior knowledge and use this as a prompt for a quick-write or quick-draw activity.

Reflection Question
Reflection questions encourage students to think individually about their prior experiences and consolidate their knowledge. As a Connection Activity they can be used to stimulate students’ prior knowledge and get them thinking about the lesson topic. Example before you get started on this module, think about hte organization you currently work for or think about one that you are currently networking with for employment opportunities and answer the following questions:
  • What are some of the characteristics you personally admire about this organization? Why?
  • What kinds of opportunities are available within the organization for career management and development?
  • Would you refer a colleague or friend to this organization? Why?
Think-Puzzle-Explore
Think-Puzzle-Explore image

The Think/Puzzle/Explore Activity helps students connect to prior knowledge, stimulates curiosity and lays the groundwork for independent inquiry. It involves posing the following three questions to students as you introduce a topic:

  • What do you think you know about this topic?
  • What questions or puzzles do you have?
  • How can you explore this topic?
You can give students a few moments to consider the lesson topic at hand then, work as a whole class or in small groups and brainstorm ideas in the three areas.

Video Clip
The use of a short video clip that addresses the relevance of the lesson topic, or tells a compelling story that illustrates its importance can be a great way to connect students to a lesson. You can find engaging videos on sites such as TED and Big Think and can shorten video clips using TubeChop and YTCropper in order to make them a more manageable length for a Connection Activity. You may wish to ask your students some reflecting questions about the video. Here are some question examples for a video on metacognition:
  • What strategies do you think you are currently using to support metacognitive knowledge?
  • What strategies do you think you could be using to support metacognitive knowledge?
  • What strategies do you want to learn more about to support metacognitive knowledge?
WebQuest
A WebQuest, according to Bernie Dodge, the originator of the WebQuest concept, "is an inquiry-oriented activity in which most or all of the information used by learners is drawn from the Web.” In a typical WebQuest, students are provided with links to online resources and are asked to use this information to answer specific questions or to solve a presented problem. You can find some examples of WebQuests at WebQuest.org and you can easily create your own using tools such as Zunal or Sqworl.

Content Activities

Content Activities are used to deliver the course content and can take a variety of forms (i.e. lectures, readings, research, multimedia, student-generated content etc.). There is a Content Activity for each sub-topic, step or section within a lesson. Content Activities should be broken into manageable “chunks,” alternated with Practice Activities. It's important to only give students an amount of material that they can digest at once. You don't want to overwhelm them by delivering all the content at once. You want them to have digestible chunks of it, or subtopics. Content Activities help to address the following questions:

  • What do I need to know?
  • How do I do this?

Content Activities Ideas

Click on any activity idea below to learn more about that specific activity.

Assigned Readings
When developing Content Activities, you do not have to create all of the material yourself. You can assign readings from a textbook, e-book, journal article, website, online newspaper, magazine, wiki, blog etc. When using assigned readings, it is recommended that you provide a short introduction to orientate your students to the material. You can also provide your expert interpretation and thoughts to supplement the assigned reading material, but be careful not to merely repeat what students can find in these resources. You may also want to provide students with some guiding questions to assist with assigned readings. The following are some examples of guiding questions that you can adapt: assigned readings chart

Before your read the article, please take a moment to think about the following questions:

  • What do I need to do before reading the article to increase my understanding?
  • What am I supposed to learn from in this article?
  • What's the best strategy for reading this article?
  • What do I already know about the topic?
As you are reading the article, please consider the following questions:
  • What do I need to do while I am reading this article to increase my understanding?
  • What don't I understand?
  • What's confusing me?
  • What information is important to remember?
When you finish reading the article, please reflect on the following questions:
  • What do I need to do after I complete the article? What questions do I need to ask myself about the article?
  • What were the most important ideas in this article?
  • How can I remember what I’ve learned?
  • What do I want to learn more about now?
You can also consider incorporating a Select a Sentence activity, where you ask each student or groups of students to identify one sentence from the assigned reading that they believe contains a significant idea for the class topic. You can then take each of the sentences, pulls together themes, and help students think through the main ideas of the class. In addition, you could use an Anticipation Guide strategy that asks students to respond to a series of questions and to make predictions prior to reading assigned text in order to activate prior knowledge and increase curiosity. This activity encourages and motivates students to read closely and critically think about what they are reading. The Durham College Library has a large collection of e-books which you can browse or search for material. You can also use sites such as Google Scholar; Microsoft Academic Search; and Mendeley to locate readings or you can setup a Google Alert to alert you of new readings that might be of interest
Audio
Audio, in the form of voice recordings, musical soundtracks, sound effects, audio description, etc. can be used on its own as a Content Activity when a visual element is not needed. Audio can be used for a variety of purposes including, mastering auditory skills or techniques (i.e. language pronunciation, analysis of musical structure, mathematical computation), sharing interviews with subject matter experts, sharing short lectures, oral histories, etc. When incorporating audio, it is recommended that you avoid overly complex and dense content material that includes lots of facts and figures, use shorter clips to keep students engaged, and make sure that the audio fits with the learning outcomes of the course/module. For more information about using audio, please see Tony Bates article on Seeking the unique pedagogical characteristics of Audio. You can create audio clips using tools such as Audacity, and Vocaroo.
Guest Speaker
Inviting a guest speaker as a Content Activity provides students with access to additional perspectives and can add variety to the course material. You can have a guest attend in person, or you can facilitate a remote guest speaker using tools such as Skype. You can also record a Skype conversation with a guest expert using Vodburner which students can watch on their own time. To get the most out of your session with your guest speaker, it is best to prepare both the speaker and the students for the session. You can provide student with a template of questions to be answered during the experience, or require a reflection of some kind, after the experience. The following article provides some helpful tips for getting the most out of guest speakers: Getting the Most out of Guest Experts Who Speak to Your Class – Faculty Focus
Images
 textbook figure=Images can be used as a Content Activity to help illustrate or demonstrate concepts that are difficult to grasp through text alone. Avoid using images for purely aesthetic reasons; rather, use images that are directly related to learning outcomes. You can find existing images using sites such as MorgueFile.com, Flickr, and Wikimedia Commons. You can also create your own diagrams, charts, tables, and flow charts using tools such as Creately and Gliffy.
Infographics
infographic exampleInfographics are visual representations of information which help to present complex data quickly and clearly. They are a great way to show the power of graphs and charts to communicate an important idea. You can find many existing Infographics for use in the classroom via Cool Infographics, or you can create your own custom infographics using tools such as Canva, Easl.ly, Infogr.am, and Piktochart.
Jigsaw
The jigsaw method is student-centred Content Activity that supports active learning. Using the jigsaw method, a general content topic is divided into smaller interrelated pieces. Students are then organized into teams and each member of a team is assigned to become an expert on a different piece of the topic. Then, after each person has become an expert on their piece of the topic, they teach the other team members about that topic. You can learn more about the jigsaw method by watching the following video:
Learning Objects
Learning objects are digital modules of information that can be used and re-used to support learning activities. Learning objects usually consist of smaller units of learning, typically ranging from 2 minutes to 15 minutes so they make great Content Activities. For more information about learning objects please see A Learning Object about Learning Objects. You can find existing learning objects through databases such as Merlot, OER Commons, Wisconsin Online Resource Center,and SOL*R. In addition, you can work with our Multimedia Developer to create custom learning objects, check out our Studio.
Lecture
Lecture is one of the most common Content Activities found within higher education. When using lecture as a Content Activity, it is recommended that you keep it short (15-20 minute maximum) and focused. For some tips on planning and delivering effective lectures, please see the following: When using lecture as a Content Activity, it can be helpful to include visuals to support your content delivery. If you are looking for some good alternatives to the traditional PowerPoint presentation, check out Emaze, Haiku Deck, Prezi, Slides, and Sway. coupling agent example

You may also want to consider using a guided note taking strategy where you can provide students with a worksheet or handout with blanks that they can fill-in during a lecture to promote active listening. The following is an example of a guided note taking template:

bingo example

Another option to add greater interactivity to your lecture is to include a Lecture Bingo activity where you would create a bingo card with terms that will be discussed in a lecture. During the lecture, students listen for the terms and mark them accordingly on their bingo cards when the terms are used in the lecture. As participants collect five vertical, horizontal, or diagonal dots in a row, they yell "Bingo!"

Open Educational Resources
OER are digitized materials offered freely and openly for educators, students and self-learners to use and re-use for teaching, learning and research. There is no point re-creating the wheel if a useful resource is already available, so OERs can be a great place to start when looking for Content Activities. You can search and find OERs through the following databases: OER Commons, Connexions, and the Open Learning Initiative.
Screencast
A screencast is a narrated video recording of your computer screen. A screencast can comprise anything from still images (for example, slides containing text or photographs) to full motion (for example, the movement of your mouse cursor, drawing or writing on slide, video clips from lab demonstrations, etc.). Using a screencast as a Content Activity can provide students with lessons they can watch at their convenience, as often as they choose, to review class material or to help understand concepts they find difficult. The following is an example of a screencast:
For additional examples of screencasts, you can check out the Khan Academy which has more than 6000 screencasts on math, biology, physics, chemistry and more. You can easily create your own screencasts using the following tools: Jing, Screenr, Screencast-o-matic, Screenchomp, and Educreations.
Video
video activityVideo can effectively communicate complex information to students and there are an endless number of ways that video can be used as a Content Activity. Watching a video can be a passive experience so you may want to consider providing students with some guiding questions to answer or an activity to complete while watching the video. The image on the right is an example of a template that can be used to guide viewing. You may also want to consider incorporating some interactivity into your video. There are a few tools including: Educannon, EdPuzzle and Thinglink that allow you to add interactive questions and rich media into an existing video's timeline to actively engage viewers. The following are some examples of these tools in action: There are a variety of sources where you can locate educational videos including the following: You can also make your own videos using tools such as Animoto, GoAnimate, Photo Story, PowToon, RawShorts or WeVideo. In addition, you can work with our Multimedia Developer to create a custom video, for example: Grammar Videos.
Virtual Field Trip
Virtual field trips as a Content Activity can provide students with the opportunity to construct knowledge actively through interacting with digital places and artifacts and can extend beyond the boundaries of time and place allowing students to experience virtual field trips at any time. Through virtual field trips students can make observations and experience environments without having to visit the actual site or destination. There are a variety of online virtual field trips that allow students to view museum exhibits, explore natural wonders, and visit destinations all over the world. Students can ‘walk’ down any street and visit many locations using Google Street View, they can also stroll around and explore famous museums using Google Art Project. Other popular museums also have virtual exhibits including the Virtual Museum of Canada and the Smithsonian Museum.

Practice Activities

Practice Activities provide hands-on application immediately follows exposure to content and provide students with the opportunity to apply, practice and review what they've just learned. They are essential for learning because they help students find out immediately whether they in fact understood and can apply and express the content that they just learned. Practice Activities provide feedback on achievement (self-marking, peer marking etc.) and allow students to check their understanding and mastery of the content throughout the lesson. Through the use of Practice Activities students become more aware of their own learning and more able to make study plans, or other action plans if they find that in fact, they can't apply or understand the material. Each sub-topic, section, step or ‘chunk’ of content within the lesson should have a Practice Activity. Practice Activities help to address the following questions:

  • How am I at this?
  • Am I getting this okay?

Practice Activities Ideas

Click on any activity idea below to learn more about that specific activity.

Application Cards
application card example

This activity provides students with an opportunity to apply concepts to real-world applications and makes a great Practice Activity as it asks students to speak immediately to the ways in which new material can be applied in real world settings. After students have been introduced to some principle, generalization, theory, or procedure, you can pass out index cards and ask students to write down at least one possible, real-world application for what they have just learned.

Approximate Analogies
approximate analogy example

For this activity, students are asked to complete the second half of an analogy. The first half is a key relationship or idea from the content, and the second half is meant to check overall understanding of the connection between different concepts. It can be as simple as "A is to B and X is to Y." For a variation, the professor can provide three of the four possible blanks for students, leaving less possible answers. This activity helps students understand the relationship between two concepts or terms given as the first part of the analogy and connect the new relationship to one they are more familiar with. The image on the right is an example of an Approximate Analogy activity.

Branching Scenarios
Similar to a case study, a branching scenario places learners into situations or contexts where they are required to make decisions along the way. The aim is for the learner to learn by thinking about these decisions, making them, and then experiencing or seeing the consequences of those decisions. As the learner makes decisions, you can use a branching scenario to show your learner the consequences of different choices, sort of like a Choose Your Own Adventure Book. Branching scenario can make great Practice Activities. You can create your own text-based branching scenarios using Twine which is free, and publishes scenarios in easily customized, accessible HTML such as the following language-learning activity. You can also create video-based branching scenarios using the Annotation Feature in YouTube such as the following Example.
For more information about how to design a branching scenario check out the following:
Case Study
Case studies can be used to present realistic, complex, and contextually rich situations and to demonstrate the application of a theory or concept to real-life situations. As a Connection Activity you can present a case study that cannot be solved without knowledge to be gained from the lesson. Throughout the lesson you can refer back to the case and students can work on developing a solution based on the information from the lesson. You can write you own case studies based on your professional experiences, from current events, from historical sources, or you can also find published cases from textbooks and online case study collections including The National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science and CASES Online. Example - Analyzing an Organization Before you get started on this module, think about the organization you currently work for or think about one that you are currently networking with for employment opportunities and answer the following questions:
  • What are some of the characteristics you personally admire about this organization? Why?
  • What kinds of opportunities are available within the organization for career management and development?
  • Would you refer a colleague or friend to this organization? Why?
Example - Inappropriate Social Media Comments The dramatic growth of social media use in Canada on such sites as Facebook has raised new legal issues for employers and employees where employee rights and discipline are concerned. One such issue is whether or not an employee's off-duty conduct online (i.e. posting personal status updates, photos or comments on Facebook at home etc.) can get that employee dismissed. In short, the answer is yes. Example 1 "Justin Hutchings of London, Ontario, learned the hard way about the consequences of making an inappropriate Facebook post. Mr. Hutchings posted an offensive comment on teen bullying victim Amanda Todd's memorial page, which was open to the public. Because Mr. Hutchings had identified his employer, Big & Tall Menswear, on his own profile, the employer received a direct complaint about the offensive post. Mr. Hutchings was fired for conduct that was considered contrary to the company's policy of treating all individuals honourably and, arguably, for conduct that would bring the employer into disrepute." Example 2 "One Bell Technical Solutions technician who made several insulting remarks about his manager on Facebook was suspended and another technician who regularly complained about his job and made disparaging comments about both his manager and the company on his Facebook page was dismissed." Regardless of whether employees intend their posts to be relatively private, courts and arbitrators have tended to conclude that posts on social media sites are easily disseminated and may be considered public if viewed by "friends." Therefore, how employees present themselves outside of the workplace can have a direct impact on disciplinary procedures. Should an employee be disciplined for inappropriate social media comments? Do you agree or disagree?
Debates
A debate is a formal contest of argumentation between two teams, during which one team supports while the other team opposes a given proposition. Debate can be very powerful Practice Activity especially when you have content that may be considered controversial. Debate activities can involve either a selected number of students or the whole class, and can be facilitated face-to-face or online. For more information on how to facilitate a debate, please check out the International Debate Education Association. pros and cons table

Another option for a Practice Activity that examines the different viewpoints of a topic is a Pro/Con grid which asks students are asked to jot down a quick list of pros and cons, costs and benefits, or advantages and disadvantages on an issue. This activity helps students to learn about decision making process and apply a clear comparison method to make an educated decision. This technique can be used as a Practice Activity in any course where questions of value are an implicit part of the syllabus.

Defining Features Matrix
defining features matrix example

This activity requires students to categorize concepts according to the presence (+) or absence (-) of important defining features, thereby providing data on their analytic reading and thinking skills. When using this as a Practice Activity, choose a limited number of items or classes of items that are similar enough to confuse your students. Determine what the most important features are that the students must recognize to correctly categorize these items. Make a list of defining features that each category either possesses or does not possess. These must be rather clear-cut in terms of their presence or absence, although the categories may share a limited number of features. Sketch out a matrix with features listed down the left side and categories across the top, or vice versa. Ask students to complete the matrix and provide a time limit for doing so. The following is an example of a Defining Features Matrix:

Directed Paraphrasing
In this activity, students are directed to paraphrase content, using their own words, for a specific audience and purpose, and within specific page-length or speaking-time limits. The purpose is to assess the degree to which students have understood and internalized the content by collecting feedback on their ability to summarize and restate the material in their own words. When using this technique as a Practice Activity, determine what content you would like students to paraphrase, who the audience should be, and how much speaking time or writing space would be reasonable for such a paraphrase. Direct the students to prepare a paraphrase of the chosen content. Tell them who the intended audience is and what the limits are on speaking time or number of pages.
Documented Problem Solving
documented problem solving template

The documented problems technique asks students to show both their work and show the reasoning behind their work, which provides extremely valuable and detailed information about any conceptual difficulties or lingering misconceptions students may have, as well as an overview of the basic strategies they are using to solve problems. The primary emphasis of this activity is on documenting the steps the students go through in attempting to solve the problems rather than on whether the answers are correct or not. Documented problems are an extremely effective means of helping students clarify their thinking and gain more deliberate control over their approach to problem solving. Documentation of a problem can be something as simple as a brief paragraph or two of what was done (and why) or extensive as a line-by-line report of each step in a mathematical proof (Angelo & Cross, 1993).

Electronic Bulletin Boards
Electronic bulletin boards allow students to share digital content including text, images, videos and web pages. They can be used to facilitate a variety of Practice Activities including brainstorming, group discussion, reflection and peer sharing. You can create electronic bulletin boards the whole class where they can collect and share ideas about a given topic, or you can create separate boards for groups of students. Examples of electronic bulletin board tools include Lino It and Padlet. The following is an example of a Practice Activity using an electronic bulletin board:
Headline Activity
This Practice Activity draws on the idea of newspaper-type headlines as a vehicle for summing up and capturing the essence of an event, idea, concept, topic, etc. This activity asks one core question:
  • If you were to write a headline for this topic or issue right now that captured the most important aspect that should be remembered, what would that headline be?
A second question involves probing how students' ideas of what is most important and central to the topic being explored have changed over time:
  • How has your headline changed based on today's discussion? How does it differ from what you would have said yesterday?
This activity helps students capture the core or heart of the matter being studied or discussed. It also can involve them in summing things up and coming to some tentative conclusions.
Houston, We Have a Problem
In a classic scene in the movie Apollo 13, all of the NASA engineers gather in a room with all of the stuff in the spacecraft and have to figure out how to make a square air filter fit a hole made for a round filter. In the Houston, We Have a Problem activity, students are given a collection of items or information that they must use to solve a problem presented by the professor. The first step to prepare for Houston, We Have a Problem is to identify a problem for students to solve. The problem should be related to an application of course content and preferably (although not necessarily) one with multiple paths to a solution. Next, you will need to collect items or information for students to use to solve the problem. You might literally put the items on a table or provide a list. The items might be objects (e.g., lab equipment) or information (e.g., equation or formula) that can be used to figure out a solution. It is also useful to provide red herring items that likely will not be useful but will require students to think about their possible use.
Memory Matrix
memory matrix example

A memory matrix is a simple square or rectangle which is divided into horizontal rows and vertical columns. The rows and columns will contain key course content or topics that students need to “connect.” Students must fill in the blank cells with information that connects particular rows and columns. The Memory Matrix is useful as a Practice Activity in courses with high information content. It is best used after a Content Activity that focuses on a substantial amount of clearly categorized Information.

Self-Test Activities
Self-test activities allow students to assess their ability or level of understanding and can be a powerful way to reinforce key concepts in a course. There are a variety of formats that can be used to create self-tests, including flashcards, matching exercises, ordering exercises, crosswords, multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blank, etc. You can easily create self-test activities using tools such as:
Simulations and Role Playing
Simulations offer students a safe environment to practice skills while experiencing as close to a real situation as possible within a safe learning environment. In role-plays students take on an assigned role and play out a scenario. They have an opportunity to experience how various perspectives might interact. Through both of these experiences students are able to develop decision-making and critical thinking skills. Although not “the real thing,” role-plays and simulations have the potential to illicit deep emotions and feelings, both of which make learning “stick.” The following articles provide some tips for incorporating simulation and role play into the classroom:
Think-Pair-Share

think pair share image

This activity involves posing a question to students, asking them to take a few minutes of thinking time and then turning to a nearby student to share their thoughts. As a Practice Activity, this strategy encourages students to think about something, such as a problem, question or topic, and then articulate their thoughts. Think-Pair-Share promotes understanding through active reasoning and explanation and encourages students to understand multiple perspectives.
Who Am I?
Who Am I? is an activity that provides students the opportunity to use their content knowledge to identify a significant concept, idea, theory, person, place, or object related to course content. This activity requires students to develop an understanding of course content and think through key concepts by asking questions. Prior to using Who Am I? as a Practice Activity, identify a list of significant concepts, ideas, theories, people, places, or objects related to the course content. Write down the ideas on index cards that students can draw. Select a student (or group of students) to draw a card with a concept, idea, theory, person, place, or object on it. Allow a couple of minutes for selected students to reference readings or other materials to prepare to answer questions. Students in class ask questions to the selected student in order to determine who or what was on the card selected. The questions must be phrased to allow for only a “yes or no” response. After each question, the student or group of students asking the question may guess or pass.

Summary Activities

Summary Activities provide an opportunity to consolidate the sub-topics, steps or sections of the lesson into one application. They provide formative feedback to the students on their mastery of the entire lesson. Summary Activities should be as similar to the eventual evaluation as possible so that students get a good idea of whether they are ready to be graded, and whether they have in fact mastered the content and skills of the lesson. You should have ONE Summary Activity for the entire lesson. Summary Activities help to address the following questions:

  • How does this all fit together?
  • Am I ready to be graded on this lesson material?

Summary Activities Ideas

Click on any activity idea below to learn more about that specific activity.

Colour-Symbol-Image
This activity asks students to reflect on 3 items that stand out most about the lesson and asks them to respond to the following prompts:
  • For one of these, choose a colour that you feel best represents or captures the essence of that idea.
  • For another one, choose a symbol that you feel best represents or captures the essence of that idea.
  • For the other one, choose an image that you feel best represents or captures the essence of that idea.
Connect-Extend-Challenge
This activity helps students make connections between new ideas and prior knowledge. It also encourages them to take stock of ongoing questions, puzzles and difficulties as they reflect on what they are learning. It involves asking students to respond to the following prompts:
  • CONNECT: How are the ideas and information presented CONNECTED to what you already knew?
  • EXTEND: What new ideas did you get that EXTENDED or pushed your thinking in new directions?
  • CHALLENGE: What is still CHALLENGING or confusing for you to get your mind around? What questions, wonderings or puzzles do you now have?
I Used to Think..., But Now I think...
This activity helps students to reflect on their thinking about a topic or issue and explore how and why that thinking has changed. It can be useful in consolidating new learning as students identify their new understandings, opinions, and beliefs. By examining and explaining how and why their thinking has changed, students are developing their reasoning abilities and recognizing cause and effect relationships. This activity involves asking students to respond to each of the sentence stems at the end of a lesson:
  • I used to think...
  • But now, I think...
Muddiest Point
In today's lesson, what was least clear to you?

This technique consists of asking students to jot down a quick response to one question: “What is the muddiest point in ________?” This technique provides information on what student find least clear or most confusing about a particular lesson or topic. As a Summary Activity, the muddiest point requires students to reflect on the lesson and identify any areas which were not clear. Faculty can use the feedback to discover which points are most difficult for students to learn to guide their teaching decisions about which topics to emphasize and how much time to spend on each.

Numbered Heads Together
The Numbered Heads Together learning technique is a good strategy for content review and synthesis. To facilitate this activity, put the students into small groups (4-5) and number off within each group. Pose a multiple choice (review or application) question. Give 1 minute for groups to choose an answer, then call out one of the numbers (1-5). All students with that number in the group stand and call out the answer. If there are dissenting answers, investigate the reasons for the choice and use the opportunity to briefly explain the right answer. Repeat as desired. The following video provides a more detailed description of this technique:

One Minute Paper
one minute paper example

A one minute paper is a quick, concise paper, written by students (either individually or in groups) that typically focuses on a short answer question. The question is usually introduced at the end of a class to help summarize and reinforce the material learned in that particular class. This activity provides the feedback required to ensure that the intended learning was successful (or not) and can also provide feedback to the students. If the students are confused by the content, or are unable to answer the short question, this is an indicator to both the student and the faculty member that the material taught in the class may need to be revisited.

One Sentence Summary
one sentence summary example

This activity requires the student to answer the questions represented by WDWWHWWW (Who Does/Did What to Whom, How, When, Where, and Why?) about a given topic, and then to synthesize those answers into a single informative, grammatical sentence. The purpose of this strategy is to find out how concisely, completely, and creatively students can summarize a given topic within the grammatical constraints of a single sentence. This strategy can provide feedback on students' summaries of just about anything that can be represented in the declarative form, from historical events, to the plots of stories and novels, to chemical reactions and mechanical processes.

Prairie Fire
The Prairie Fire learning technique is a great way to review content, or application exercises. This technique will help students develop a study sheet. In order to facilitate a Prairie Fire activity, develop a number of review or application questions and prepare handouts with all questions and room to write answers. Divide the class into small groups; assign one or more questions per group. When ready, sweep across the room, having a reporter from each group stand and present the group’s answers. Allow time for everyone to record, question, clarify the answers. The following video provides a more detailed description of this technique:

RSQC2 (Recall, Summarize, Question, Connect and Comment)
This five-step activity guides students quickly through simple recall, summary, analysis, evaluation, and synthesis exercise and makes a great Summary Activity.
  • Recall: Students make a list of what they recall as most important from the lesson.
  • Summarize: Students summarize the essence of the lesson.
  • Question: Students ask one or two questions that remained unanswered.
  • Connect: Students briefly explain the essential points and how they relate to the goals of the class.
  • Comment: Students evaluate and share feedback about the lesson.
Student Generated Rubrics
As a Summary Activity you can ask students to develop a grading rubric related to the evaluation that would be associated with the lesson topic. When students are involved in the process of creating a rubric they have a better understanding of the standards, gradations, and expectations of evaluations. You can divide students into groups and have each group develop the grading criteria for a specific objective and then combine the criteria together into one rubric. You can also have students grade mock assignments using the grading rubric to increase their familiarly with the evaluation criteria. Also, you can use the student-generated rubric to mark the evaluation related to the lesson topic. You can provide students with some resources and sample rubrics via RubiStar or iRubric.
Student Generated Test Questions
With this activity, students are asked to prepare two or three potential test questions and accompanying correct responses for the lesson material. This activity allows the faculty member to see what their students consider the most important or memorable content, what they understand as fair and useful test questions, and how well they can answer the questions they have posed. The test questions can be used to facilitate an in-class review session, and can also be considered for use on upcoming tests. You could also have students create self-test activities or games using their test questions and post them for each other to complete. Some simple tools for creating self-test activities include Game Templates and Microsoft Office Games.
3-2-1 Bridge
3 - 2 - 1 example

This activity can be used as both a Connection and Summary Activity and asks students to uncover their initial thoughts, ideas, questions and understandings about a topic and then to connect these to new thinking about the topic after they have received some instruction. It involves asking student to respond to the following prompts:

  • What are 3 Thoughts/Ideas you have related to the topic?
  • What are 2 Questions you have about the topic?
  • What is 1 Analogy/Metaphor related to the topic?
This activity can be introduced as a Connection Activity by having students’ complete an initial 3-2-1 individually prior to the lesson. After the lesson, students complete another 3-2-1. Students then share their initial and new thinking, explaining to their partners how and why their thinking shifted. The following is an example: