36 interactive teaching techniques!

I am about to do a workshop on differentiation.

Seeing that there is no such thing as a normal student and no such thing as a normal school or class, teachers need all of the support they can to try and reach all of their students… particularly those on either end of the ability spectrum.

This means that teachers are usually on the lookout for a new technique or strategy that will get students learning.

Engagement is the first step in the differentiation puzzle.

Doctor Adolph Brown says “We can teach anyone anything once we get their attention” Brown is an expert in attention getting as the clip below demonstrates.

Part of my job is to be on the constant look out for something that entertaining, engaging and inspiring for teachers to share with their colleagues and their students.

The biggest things that teachers love though is a great strategies. These are 36 of a big list of 228 I found today. Many of these you know, some are new twists on old models and some different.

These techniques have multiple benefits:

· The teacher can easily and quickly assess if students have really mastered the material (and plan to dedicate more time to it, if necessary),

· The process of measuring student understanding in many cases is also practice for the material—often students do not actually learn the material until asked to make use of it in assessments.

· The very nature of these assessments drives interactivity and brings several benefits. Students are revived from their passivity of merely listening to a teacher and instead become attentive and engaged, two prerequisites for effective learning.

· These techniques are often perceived as “fun”, yet they are frequently more effective than lectures at enabling student learning.

Not all techniques listed here will have universal appeal, with factors such as your teaching style and personality influencing which choices may be right for you.

I will keep a steady stream of these coming in the last few weeks of the teaching year because it is a great time to try something new.

Whole class

1. Picture Prompt – Show students an image with no explanation, and ask them to identify/explain it, and justify their answers. Or ask students to write about it using terms from lecture, or to name the processes and concepts shown. Also works well as group activity. Do not give the “answer” until they have explored all options first.

Like What is this?

Watch Chris Jordan turning powerful statistics into art!

2. Think Break – Ask a rhetorical question, and then allow 20 seconds for students to think about the problem before you go on to explain. This technique encourages students to take part in the problem-solving process even when discussion isn't feasible. Having students write something down (while you write an answer also) helps assure that they will in fact work on the problem.


Penny: Sheldon, have you any idea what time it is? Sheldon: Of course I do. My watch is linked to the atomic clock in Boulder, Colorado. It's accurate to one-tenth of a second. But as I'm saying this, it occurs to me that you may have again been asking a rhetorical question.

So the Rhetorical question we have to ask is “Why are Rhetorical questions so confusing?”

3. Updating Notes – Take a break for 2-3 minutes to allow students to compare their class notes so far with other students, fill in gaps, and develop joint questions.

Cliffhanger Lecturing – Rather than making each topic fit neatly within one day’s class period, intentionally structure topics to end three-fourths of the way through the time, leaving one quarter of the time to start the next module/topic. This generates an automatic bridge between sessions and better meets learning science principles of the spacing effect and interleaving topics.

Watch Dan Finkel making maths awesome!

Choral Response – Ask a one-word answer to the class at large; volume of answer will suggest degree of comprehension. Very useful to “drill” new vocabulary words into students.

Here’s an amazing bunch of year twos learning their brain function using choral responses on steroids.

Please note that they do not do this all of the time, just when they need to embed sequential discrete knowledge.

Watch this fun, interactive and loud way to teach the parts of the brain!

4. Word Cloud Guessing - Before you introduce a new concept to students, show them a word cloud on that topic, using an online generator (Wordle, Taxedo, or Tagul) to paste a paragraph or longer of related text, and challenge students to guess what the topic was.

Topic your diet!

5. Instructor Storytelling – Instructor illustrates a concept, idea, or principle with a real- life application, model, or case-study.

If you can tell a story like Rita Pearson could your students will learn anything form you.

6. Grab a Volunteer – After a minute paper (or better: think pair share) pick one student to stand up, cross the room, and read any other student's answer.

7. Socratic Questioning – The instructor replaces lecture by peppering 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. Variation: A group of students writes a series of questions as homework and leads the exercise in class.

Here’s Dan Pink showing you how questioning can change minds.

8. Reverse Socratic Questioning – The instructor requires students to ask him/her questions, and the instructor answers in such a way as to goad another question immediately but also drive the next student question in a certain direction.

9. Pass the Pointer – Place a complex, intricate, or detailed image on the screen and ask for volunteers to temporarily borrow the laser pointer to identify key features or ask questions about items they don’t understand.

10. Turn My Back – Face away from the class, ask for a show of hands for how many people did the reading. After they put hands down, turn around again and ask to hear a report of the percentage. This provides an indication of student preparation for today’s material.

11. Empty Outlines – Distribute a partially completed outline of today’s lesson and ask students to fill it in. Useful at start or at end of class.

12. Classroom Opinion Polls – Informal hand-raising suffices to test the waters before a controversial subject.

13. Discussion Row – Students take turns sitting in a group that can earn extra free time as individuals when they volunteer to answer questions posed in class; this provides a group that will ALWAYS be prepared and interact with teacher questions.

14. Total Physical Response (TPR) – Students either stand or sit to indicate their binary answers, such as True/False, to the instructor’s questions.

15. Student Polling – Select some students to move and the room, polling the others on a topic relevant to the course, then report back the results for everyone.

16. Self-Assessment of Ways of Learning – Prepare a questionnaire for students that probes what kind of learning style they use, so the course can match visual/aural/tactile learning styles.

Get your students to take this quiz … after you have tried it.


17. Quote Minus One – Provide a quote relevant to your topic but leave out a crucial word and ask students to guess what it might be: “I cannot forecast to you the action of; it is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” This engages them quickly in a topic and makes them feel invested.

Try this one

If you're xxxxxx than me, then that means I'm xxxxxx than you.

If you're hotter than me, then that means I'm cooler than you.

18. Everyday Ethical Dilemmas – Present an abbreviated case study with an ethical dilemma related to the discipline being studied.

Should we make everyone normal?

19. Polar Opposites – Ask the class to examine two written-out versions of a theory (or corollary, law of nature, etc.), where one is incorrect, such as the opposite or a negation of the other. In deciding which is correct, students will have to examine the problem from all angles.

20. Pop Culture – Infuse your lectures, case studies, and sample word problems for use during class with current events from the pop culture world. Rather than citing statistics for housing construction, for instance, illustrate the same statistical concept you are teaching by inventing statistics about something students gossip about, like how often a certain pop star appears in public without make-up.

In Small Group

21. Pass the Pen – Pen, whiteboard marker or a soft toy; whoever has it must answer your next question, and they pass it on to the student of their choice.

22. Whiteboard Capture – Using a smartphone, take photographs of the whiteboard at the end of the day and post them to your class website (labeled by date) for easy student and parent reference.

23. Beach Ball Bingo – Write questions or prompts onto all surfaces of a beach ball (or tape them on). When the next student catches the ball, he/she answers one of the questions where fingers are touching the ball.


24. Bingo Balls of Doom – Every student is assigned a number; when the teacher pulls that number from the bingo cage, that student has to answer the next question.

25. Tournament – Divide the class into at least two groups and announce a competition for most points on a practice test. Let them study a topic together and then give that quiz, tallying points. After each round, let them study the next topic before quizzing again. The points should be carried over from round to round. The student impulse for competition will focus their engagement onto the material itself.

Or play Crumple and throw.

26. Three Part Interview – Pose the following question to the entire class: “What do you think are the three biggest issues related to .” Choose the student with the birthday closest to today’s date and have them stand and share their 3 responses to the question for one minute. Move clockwise around the room until all have shared.


(Many of these can be used as partner work or group work instead; or may escalate to that after some individual effort)

27. Mind Dump – Students write for five minutes on a subject, and this paper gets collected. The entire chapter's worth of mind dumps are returned as a surprise to help students study for the test.

28. One-Minute Papers – Students write for one minute on a specific question (which might be generalized to “what was the most important thing you learned today”). Best used at the end of the class session.

29. Snowballs – Ball up several blank pieces of paper and throw them around the room. Each time a “snowball” lands on a desk, the recipient must write three takeaways from today’s (or yesterday’s) class, taking care not to duplicate other ideas already on this paper, and then throw it onward. After nine ideas are on each page, pause for students to debrief the pages in groups.

30. Whip Around – Give students a few seconds to think of their answer to a question, then move around the whole class with each one giving their (one word?) answer. Disallow repeat answers (but do allow a “pass” if necessary).

31. Hot Seat – One volunteer “takes the microphone” at a time, and starts to talk about a topic, at any time the teacher calls “Hot Seat!” and then the speaker then calls on the next volunteer. Each subsequent speaker must summarize the previous one’s points (or, if desired, ALL the speakers thus far) before adding original ideas.

32. Photo Homework – Students are assigned to use a smartphone to snap a picture of something at home (or out in the city) that captures a specific concept from the class and send it to a prescribed number as assigned by the teacher.

33. Time Traveler – Students video themselves at the start of the semester answering a set of questions and then do it again at the end of each term.

34. Ask the Winner – Ask students to silently solve a problem on the board. After revealing the answer, instruct those who got it right to raise their hands (and keep them raised); then, all other students are to talk to someone with a raised hand to better understand the question and how to solve it next time.

But not like this...

35. Video Selfie – Ask students to make a video of themselves performing the homework, as they will take it more seriously and be more likely to avoid mistakes.

Do not share this with your students

36. Infographic – Students use online services (visual.ly, infogr.am) to create an infographic that combines flowchart logic and visual presentation.

We know you are going to love these strategies and tools!

Let us know how you go?


Have you thought about joining us in Bali this January for our school teachers retreat?

I will share over 100 more strategies just like these...


  • YouTube - White Circle
  • Twitter - White Circle
  • Instagram - White Circle
  • Facebook - White Circle

<script type="text/javascript">
    (function(e,t,o,n,p,r,i){e.visitorGlobalObjectAlias=n;e[e.visitorGlobalObjectAlias]=e[e.visitorGlobalObjectAlias]||function(){(e[e.visitorGlobalObjectAlias].q=e[e.visitorGlobalObjectAlias].q||[]).push(arguments)};e[e.visitorGlobalObjectAlias].l=(new Date).getTime();r=t.createElement("script");r.src=o;r.async=true;i=t.getElementsByTagName("script")[0];i.parentNode.insertBefore(r,i)})(window,document,"https://diffuser-cdn.app-us1.com/diffuser/diffuser.js","vgo");
    vgo('setAccount', '224098593');
    vgo('setTrackByDefault', true);