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Interactive Lectures

For instructors who want to think outside the podium, use these strategies to create engaging, interactive classes, even with large classes.

 

Ten-two - interactive lecture

Online adaptation: Possible in Zoom

Instructions:

  1. Share information with students (e.g., through lecture, presentation) for ten minutes.
  2. Stop for two minutes while students, in pairs, summarize/recap the content or address a question you’ve posed.
  3. Ask if students have questions.
  4. Repeat the procedure.

Example:

In a course on U.S. History of the 20th Century, the instructor asks students to summarize the economic impact of the Great Depression on the North American labour market in the 1930s and 1940s.

Variations:

  • Encourage students to pair up with different peers each time this activity is carried out.
  • Pairs can pair up (making groups of 4 students) to summarize the 3-5 key points or “take-aways” from the class session.
  • This activity may be used when students are watching peers’ presentations.

Online variation:

During the two minutes, students respond to questions posed via Polling @ McGill or they respond in the chat. (Variation from instructor responses to McGill’s March 2021 Remote Teaching Survey) 

Picture prompt

Online adaptation: Possible in Zoom and myCourses Discussions

Instructions:

  1. Show students a picture—related to course content—with no explanation.
  2. Ask them to
    1. identify/explain it and justify their answers or
    2. write about it using terms from your lecture or
    3. name the processes and concepts shown or
    4. synthesize the class content by connecting it to the picture (drawn from instructor responses to McGill’s March 2021 Remote Teaching Survey).
  3. Do not give “answers” until students have explored all options.

Variations:

  • Have students work in small groups.
  • Begin the class by displaying a picture or cartoon meant to provoke an emotional reaction or discussion.

Yee, K. (n.d.). Interactive techniques. Retrieved from http://www.usf.edu/atle/teaching/handout-interactive-techniques.pdf. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.

Think break

Online adaptation: Possible in Zoom

Instructions:

  1. Ask a question.
  2. Allow 20 seconds for students to think about the question before you go on to address it.

Variation:

Have students write a response while you also write a response.

Yee, K. (n.d.). Interactive techniques. Retrieved from http://www.usf.edu/atle/teaching/handout-interactive-techniques.pdf. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.

Online variation:

Ask a question. Have students write their response to the question in the chat but wait to press Enter until you instruct them to do so. Wait long enough for students to formulate and type their response. Then tell the students to press Enter. This delay  causes all the responses to show up at the same time (sometimes referred to as a waterfall of responses or cascading responses), so students are not influenced by peers’ ideas. Recommended for simple, low-stakes questions or questions where there is no right or wrong answer, as this strategy can increase students’ ease with sharing in the chat. (Variation from instructor responses to McGill’s March 2021 Remote Teaching Survey)

Updating notes

Online adaptation: Possible in Zoom

Instructions:

  1. Every 10-15 minutes, pause your lecture to allow students a few minutes to compare their class notes so far with other students, fill in gaps, and develop joint questions.
  2. Solicit questions from students.

Yee, K. (n.d.). Interactive techniques. Retrieved from http://www.usf.edu/atle/teaching/handout-interactive-techniques.pdf. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.

Word cloud guessing

Online adaptation: Possible in Zoom

Instructions:

  1. Before you introduce a new concept/topic, show students a word cloud related to that concept or topic. (Word clouds can be generated online with Wordle, Tagxedo, or Tagul).
  2. Challenge students to guess what the concept/topic is.
  3. Provide an explanation of the new concept/topic.
  4. Allow students time to reflect on whether or not they had guessed accurately.

Yee, K. (n.d.). Interactive techniques. Retrieved from http://www.usf.edu/atle/teaching/handout-interactive-techniques.pdf. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.

Socratic questioning

Online adaptation: Possible in Zoom

Instructions:

Pepper students with questions, always asking the next question in a way that guides the conversation toward a learning outcome (or major driving question) that was desired from the beginning. (Read about using Socratic questioning.)

Variation:

A group of students writes a series of questions for homework and leads the exercise in class.
 

Reverse-Socratic questioning

Online adaptation: Possible in Zoom

Instructions:

  1. Instruct students to ask you questions.
  2. Answer questions in such a way as to goad another question immediately but also drive the next student question in a certain direction. (Read about Using Socratic questioning.)

Yee, K. (n.d.). Interactive techniques. Retrieved from http://www.usf.edu/atle/teaching/handout-interactive-techniques.pdf. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.

Read more:

The Socratic Method: What it is and How to Use it in the Classroom (Stanford University, Tomorrow’s Professor)

The Spirit and Principles of Socratic Questioning (Union University)

Pass the pointer

Online adaptation: Possible in Zoom

Instructions:

  1. Place a complex, intricate, or detailed image on the screen.
  2. Ask for volunteers to borrow the laser pointer to identify key features or ask questions about items they don’t understand.

Yee, K. (n.d.). Interactive techniques. Retrieved from http://www.usf.edu/atle/teaching/handout-interactive-techniques.pdf. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.

Guided note taking: Fill-in-the-blank handout

Online adaptation: Possible in OneDrive

Instructions:

  1. Prepare a handout that addresses important points you would like students to pay attention to during the class. Leave portions of the text blank for students to fill in.
  2. Distribute the handout in class.
  3. At the beginning of class, ask students to fill in the blanks. As they listen to the lecture, they should be attentive to whether or not they have filled in blanks appropriately.

Examples:

  • In a biology course: Homology refers to __________________.
  • In an English literature course on Shakespeare: There is a question as to whether one man, the man we know as William Shakespeare, actually wrote the body of literature attributed to him. There are at least ________ pieces of evidence that point to another person. They are ____________________________.

Variations:

  • Students fill in the blanks throughout the class rather than at the beginning.
  • Make the handout available to students as an online document that they can download and fill in.

Silberman, M. (1996). Active learning: 101 strategies to teach any subject. Boston: Allyn & Bacon, p. 73-74.

Group breakout room question brainstorm

Online adaptation: Possible in Zoom

Instructions:

  1. Lecture for a short time.
  2. Explain to students that they will have an opportunity to brainstorm questions together in breakout rooms. Let students how much time they will have.
  3. Send students into breakout rooms
  4. After the brainstorming time has elapsed, close the breakout rooms so that students rejoin the whole class.
  5. Students raise their hand virtually to voice their question or enter the question in the chat.
     

Variations:

  • Students add their questions to a collaborative document (e.g., OneDrive), and if time is limited, they then vote on which question they would most like to have answered.


(Strategy drawn from instructor responses to McGill’s March 2021 Remote Teaching Survey)

Icebreaker question

Online implementation: Possible in Zoom

Instructions:

  1. Before starting the lecture, explain to students that you are going to ask them to engage in an activity to get to know one another a little better. 
  2. Ask students a multiple-choice question, such as: 
    1. How are you feeling today? (uncertain, energetic, tired, laid-back, ready to go)  
    2. If you could have a conversation with one of the following people, who would you choose? (followed by a list of people in your discipline whose work students have been studying) 
  3. Students respond to the question via Polling @ McGill, or (if on Zoom) write their response in the chat, use the annotation tool, or respond to a Zoom poll.  
  4. Synthesize the results of students’ responses in 1-2 sentences for sharing with the class.  


Variations:

  1. Responses to icebreaker questions can be image-based rather than text-based (e.g., students pick an image from among multiple options that they most identify with). Or, if using the annotation tool in Zoom, students respond by putting a stamp on a continuum.
  2. Questions can be used to check students’ understanding of course content or their progress in the course. For instance:  
    1. On a scale of 1-5 where 1 is not at all and 5 is completely, how well did you understand the readings for today’s class?  
    2. Assignment X is due in a week. Which of these answers do you relate to the most? (I’m done, or almost done. / It’s progressing well. / I have a question that I need to get answered before I can finish it. / I just started. / It’s not progressing well. / Wait, we have an assignment due next week?) 

(Strategy and variations drawn from instructor responses to McGill’s March 2021 Remote Teaching Survey) 

 


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