20 educational activities to energize your course
The fundamental task of the teacher is to get students to engage in educational activities that are likely to lead to the achievement of outcomes. Keep in mind that what the student does is actually more important than what the teacher does.
It is also important that each educational activity be meaningful and ensure the development and progression of students in the unit. Learning activities should build on previous activities and avoid being repetitive. They should allow students to engage and develop their skills , knowledge and understanding in different ways. Meaningful instructional activities engage students in an active , constructive, intentional, authentic, and cooperative way .
Educational activities: definition
Useful learning activities are those where the student is able to transfer what he has learned to another context, or for another purpose. For example, this is the case if students are able to directly apply the skills or knowledge learned in one activity to an assessment task or the next activity in your unit.
Instead of asking children to simply listen and take notes, instructional activity-based learning encourages students to actively participate in their own learning experience through hands-on activities such as problem solving and independent research . .
Lesson activities guide students and give them the opportunity to process, integrate, and understand the content (for example, watching a video, listening to a podcast, or reading an article). The examples of activities are classified according to the themes that characterize them. Whatever the chosen activity, it must be directly related to the previous content. Ideally, all activities should have built-in and tailored feedback.
Types of educational activities
The bank of lesson activities presented below is by no means an exhaustive list, but will help you think about how best to design and deliver high-impact learning experiences for your students.
1. Improv games
If your classroom is dead calm, you can try implementing low-stakes improv activities.
For example, in the three things in common game, pairs have to find the most unexpected things they share. Or you can challenge your students to count to 20 as a group, each person has to say a number (in order) but no one is assigned a number, and if two people are talking at the same time, everyone starts over at 1.
You’ve probably tried brainstorming , but have you ever tried brainwriting? In this approach, students have time to come up with their own ideas individually before sharing them out loud or posting them on an online whiteboard or other shared platform. Providing space for individual thinking leads to better ideas and less groupthink.
3. The Jigsaw
The philosophy of Jigsaw is to help students become empowered through peer learning. We begin by dividing them into “belonging groups” of 4 or 5 people. Again, meeting rooms from Zoom or Google Meet make things simpler, even if everyone is remote. Each person in the group is then assigned a different topic to explore. They then come together to work with all the students from the other groups who are exploring the same idea. Once they have mastered the concept, the students return to their original group and each shares their new expertise.
4. Concept mapping
Collaborative mind mapping is a great way for students to step away from their individual perspectives. Groups can do this to review past work or to get ideas for projects and assignments. Before the COVID era, it was possible to cover the classroom walls with sticky notes and graph paper. Today, there are many online tools that make it easy to show connections between ideas.
5. The one-minute talk
How many things can you explain in one minute? At the end of the lesson, you can set a timer and have students write down their biggest revelation or biggest question. This educational activity allows students to reflect on their learning and strengthen their writing skills. Plus, you’ll get an idea of what they understood and what they misunderstood.
6. Chain Notes
Write several questions on sheets of paper and pass them out to a student. The first student adds an answer (use a stopwatch to keep things going quickly) and then passes the sheet around to collect other answers. The multiple contributions help in a fuller understanding. A digital alternative is to use shared documents that multiple students are invited to edit. Your class can then review the answers and identify patterns and missing pieces.
7. Alignment of ideas
Choose a question that elicits a range of answers, then ask students where they stand—literally. If you’re not practicing social distancing, ask them to come to the front of the class and organize themselves in line, depending on where they are in the response spectrum. In a co-ed or physically distant classroom, ask them to stand on a virtual number line instead.
8. The Mystery Quote
Test students’ ability to apply their understanding of a question or theoretical position! After they have explored a topic, show them a quote on that same topic that they have never seen before. Their task is to find out the point of view of the person who quoted and justify it to the class. Students can discuss this question in small groups before starting a whole class discussion.
9. The speed dating of ideas
Ask students to circulate in the space, or in the meeting rooms of Zoom or Google Meet, to share their ideas on a subject or argue about an upcoming project. As they repeatedly present their learnings on multiple speed dates , students’ presentation skills and perspectives will grow.
Instead of taking traditional lecture notes, you can ask your students to draw what they learned in class. Remember that it is not the quality of the drawing that is important, but how well it engages students in visualizing their understanding and looking at their learning from a different perspective.
11. Mapping Empathy
Take inspiration from the designer’s handbook and encourage students to explore more deeply from another point of view.
The exercise is very simple: write down what a person says, thinks, does and feels.
The ability to slow down and immerse yourself in another point of view is valuable. As part of design thinking, empathy maps help designers create better products for users. But this process can be equally valuable for analyzing characters from literature, historical figures, or political positions.
12. Learning in pairs
This involves posing a problem or a question on a certain subject and pairing the students. Then give each pair of students enough time to come to an appropriate conclusion and allow the children to share their conclusion out loud. This way, students will be engaged, communicate, and remember the lesson better than before.
Brainstorming is mostly practiced in group sessions. This process is useful for generating creative thoughts and ideas. Brainstorming helps students learn to work together and, most importantly, to learn from each other. You’ll be surprised by all the great ideas they come up with!
14. The Buzz Session
Participants meet in groups, with each group focusing on a single topic. Within each group, each student contributes their thoughts and ideas. Discussion and collaboration among students in each group is encouraged. Each must learn from the contribution and experiences of the other. As a teacher, you can give your students some keywords to start the conversation.
15. Release slips
It is best to use them at the end of the class session. You will ask students to write for one minute on a specific question. It can be a general question such as “what is the most important thing you learned today?” “. You can then decide to start a conversation about it in the next class. You can also ask them if they still remember what they wrote.
16. Checking for misconceptions
Ideal for learning about students’ misconceptions. It helps to see if students are able to identify the correct answer when given an incorrect fact. This activity is useful for revising a previous lesson. She encourages students to think deeply and choose from all the possibilities.
17. Circle the Questions
To conduct this activity, prepare a worksheet or quiz with a list of (specific) questions about your topic and ask students to circle (or tick) those to which they do not know the answers. Then ask them to return the sheet.
Create corners in the class based on the different questions that have been circled. Let your students work on the additional exercises and explanations in the corners, individually. As your students will all have circled different questions, you should give each student a different and personalized order to visit the corners.
18. Ask the Winner
Invite students to silently solve a problem on the board. After revealing the answer, ask those who found the correct answer to raise their hand (and keep it raised). Then, all the other students should talk to someone who has raised their hand to better understand the question and how to solve it next time.
19. The teacher and the student
Students are allowed to reflect on the main points of the last lesson. Then, we put them in pairs and we assign them each a role. One takes the role of the teacher, the other of the student. The teacher’s role is to outline the main points, while the student’s role is to cross off points from their list as they are mentioned and come up with 2 or 3 points that the teacher forgot.
20. Another’s Wisdom
After an individual brainstorming or a creative activity, it is a question of putting the pupils in pairs so that they share their results. Then, call on volunteers who have found the work of their partner interesting or exemplary. Students are often more willing to share their peers’ work publicly than their own. Of course, you can always encourage sharing their goals as well.