15 active learning activities to energize your next college class (2023)

The evidence just keeps growing – postsecondary students engage more, learn more and accomplish more with active learning. In yet another proof point, a meta-analysis from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that student exam scores improved 6% when active learning approaches were used. And students in traditional classes were 1.5 times more likely to fail than those being taught with interactive methods.

During uncertain times like these, it might feel simpler to stick with what’s familiar. But even if your classes have moved partially or fully online, that doesn’t mean you’re limited to lecturing. Even taking 5 or 10 minutes to shift from knowledge intake to interaction can make a difference.

Are you ready to move to a different way of teaching but need some ideas to get you started? Or maybe you’ve been running your courses this way for years but want ideas that work for the new reality. Whether your classes are in person, online or somewhere in between, here are 15active learningactivities to try with your students this semester.

1. Think-pair-repair

In this twist on think-pair-share, pose an open-ended question to your class and ask students to come up with their best answer. Next, pair learners up and get them to agree on a response. Get two pairs together, and the foursome needs to do the same thing. Continue until half the group goes head to head with the other half. If your students are online, breakout rooms in your conferencing software let you do the same thing virtually. Here’s how it works in Zoom.

2. Improv games

If your classroom is museum-level quiet no matter how you try to liven things up, try some low-stakes (read: not embarrassing) improv activities. In the three things in common game, pairs figure out the most unexpected things they share (this can also be done online in breakout rooms). Or challenge your students to count to 20 as a group with one person saying each number – but no one is assigned a number, and if two people talk at the same time, everyone starts again at 1. (If some students are in the room and some remote, you’ll need classroom audio with full-room coverage for this to work. Here’s how Nureva audio can help.)

(Video) What is…Active Learning?

3. Brainwriting

You’ve probably tried brainstorming, but have you tried brainwriting? In this approach, students are given time to come up with their own ideas individually before sharing them out loud or posting them to an online whiteboard or other shared platform. Building in space for individual reflection leads to better ideas and less groupthink.

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4. Jigsaw

Help students build accountability by teaching each other. Start by dividing them into “home groups” (4 or 5 people works well). Again, breakout rooms in Zoom or Google Meet make this simple even if everyone is remote. Assign each person in the group a different topic to explore – they’ll regroup to work with all the students from the other groups who are exploring the same idea. Once they’ve mastered the concept, students return to their home group and everyone shares newfound expertise.

5. Concept mapping

Collaborative concept mappingis a great way for students to step away from their individual perspectives. Groups can do this to review previous work, or it can help them map ideas for projects and assignments. In pre-COVID times, you may have covered classroom walls with sticky notes and chart paper – now there are many online tools that make it simple to map out connections between ideas.

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6. The one-minute paper

How much could you explain in one minute? At the end of class, set a timer and ask students to record their most eye-opening revelation or biggest question. This activity lets students reflect on learning and build writing skills – plus you’ll get a window into their understandings and misunderstandings. Here aremore promptsyou can use to get students writing.

(Video) Re-energize Your Teaching: Encouraging Active Learning and Using Creative Assessments

7. Real-time reactions

When students are watching a video, a mini lecture or another student’s presentation, have them share their real-time reactions. This helps students spot trends and consider new points of view. You can set up a hashtag to allow forlive tweeting, or use the chat function in your conferencing software.

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8. Chain notes

Write several questions on pieces of paper and pass each to a student. The first student adds a response (use a timer to keep things moving quickly) and then passes the page along to gather more responses. Multiple contributions help build more complete understanding. A digital alternative involves using shared documents that multiple students are invited to edit. Then your class can examine the responses and identify patterns and missing pieces.

9. Idea line up

Choose a question that has a range of responses, and then ask students where they stand – literally. If you’re not social distancing, have them come to the front of the classroom and organize themselves in a line, based on where on the spectrum of answers they find themselves. In a blended classroom or a physically distanced one, get them to place themselves on a virtual number line instead.

10. Mystery quotation

Test how well students can apply their understanding of an issue or theoretical position. After they’ve explored a topic, show them a quotation about it they’ve never seen before. Their task is to figure out the point of view of the person behind the quotation – and justify it to the class. Students can debate this issue in small breakout groups before beginning a whole-class discussion.

11. Idea speed dating

Have students cycle through your space, or through breakout rooms in Zoom or Google Meet, sharing insights about a topic or their elevator pitch for an upcoming project. As they present their learnings multiple times on several “speed dates,” students’ presentation skills and perspectives will grow.

(Video) "Stop-Walk" training energizer

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12. Peer review

The process of peer review is as old as academia, and it’s never too early to start. Have students swap drafts of their essays, proposals or lab reports, and then come up with comments and questions for each other. Make sure to be clear about what the goals are (using rubrics helps). For example, students could identify compelling arguments, unanswered questions and holes in logic.

13. Quescussion

Ever played Jeopardy? Then you’re ready forquescussion. It’s like a standard class discussion but only questions are allowed (students call “Statement!” if someone slips up). If you play this game at the beginning of the course, the questions can help shape your course. If you have students both in the room and calling in from a distance, make sure the remote learners get equal airtime and that your audio system is picking up student voices clearly.

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14. Sketchnoting

Instead of taking traditional lecture notes, try getting your students to sketch a picture that represents what they’ve learned during class. Remember, it’s not about the quality of the art – it’s about how drawing prompts students to visualize their understanding and look at their learning from a different perspective.

15. Empathy mapping

Take a page from the designers’ handbook and get students to explore deeper by embracing a perspective. It’s deceptively 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. In design thinking, empathy maps help designers create better products for users. But this process can be just as valuable for analyzing characters from literature, historical figures or political stances.

(Video) Teaching with Technology: Energize and Engage Your Online Classes with Active Learning

Checklist: 8 audio essentials for HyFlex and hybrid learning

Do your higher ed audio systems support active learning? In a hybrid classroom, students need to be able to hear each other easily, no matter where they are. Instructors need to be able to change the room layout for different activities, as often as they like. See what else is on our audio essentials list – download your checklist today (no email address required).

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Editor’s note: This post was originally published August 2018 and has been updated.

15 active learning activities to energize your next college class (7)

Topics: Higher educationActive learningHybrid learningLearning Activities

(Video) Easy Icebreaker Activities: The Numbers Game

Posted on April 2, 2020


15 active learning activities to energize your next college class? ›

Active learning engages students in learning, using activities such as reading, writing, discussion, or problem solving, which promote analysis, synthesis, and evaluation of class content. Active in-class learning also provides students with informal opportunities for feedback on how well they understood the material.

What kind of activities encourage active learning in the classroom? ›

Active learning engages students in learning, using activities such as reading, writing, discussion, or problem solving, which promote analysis, synthesis, and evaluation of class content. Active in-class learning also provides students with informal opportunities for feedback on how well they understood the material.

What are active learning activities? ›

Active learning methods ask students to engage in their learning by thinking, discussing, investigating, and creating. In class, students practice skills, solve problems, struggle with complex questions, make decisions, propose solutions, and explain ideas in their own words through writing and discussion.

What are good examples of active learning? ›

Other examples of active learning techniques include role-playing, case studies, group projects, think-pair-share, peer teaching, debates, Just-in-Time Teaching, and short demonstrations followed by class discussion.

What are 3 ways to encourage active learning? ›

By Kasia Piotrowska
  • Are you looking for ways to get learners actively involved in the classroom? ...
  • Give learners clear lesson aims and refer to them at each stage.
  • Give learners tools to follow the lesson aims.
  • Make room for learners to reflect on the lesson.
  • Teachers don't have to stick to their plan.
Oct 30, 2017

How can I make my college class more interesting? ›

15 active learning activities to energize your next college class
  1. Think-pair-repair. In this twist on think-pair-share, pose an open-ended question to your class and ask students to come up with their best answer. ...
  2. Improv games. ...
  3. Brainwriting. ...
  4. Jigsaw. ...
  5. Concept mapping. ...
  6. The one-minute paper. ...
  7. Real-time reactions. ...
  8. Chain notes.
Apr 2, 2020

What are the 4 active learning approaches? ›

Cattaneo (2017) classifies active learning activities as problem-based learning, discovery-based learning, inquiry-based learning, project-based learning, and case-based learning. She finds that each of these approaches is student-centered, but they vary quite widely in their implementation.

What are the 4 learning activities? ›

The four core learning styles in the VARK model include visual, auditory, reading and writing, and kinesthetic. Here's an overview of all four learning style types.

What are active learning and learning strategies examples? ›

What is considered an Active Learning Strategy?
  • clustered in small groups to discuss a course topic,
  • reflecting individually at the end of each class session about what they have learned and what questions they still have,
  • working through an application problem with a partner before presenting to the larger class, or.

What are the five learning activities? ›

The following is an overview of the five phases of the 5E Model.
  • ENGAGE. In the first phase of the learning cycle, the teacher works to gain an understanding of the students' prior knowledge and identify any knowledge gaps. ...
  • EXPLORE. ...
  • EXPLAIN. ...
  • ELABORATE. ...

What are examples of practical activities? ›

There are several broad types of practical work, each with its own benefits and planning issues:
  • demonstration.
  • structured practical.
  • 'rotating' practical or 'circus' practical.
  • investigation.
  • problem solving.

What are some energizer activities? ›

List of large group energizers
  • Hot Takes. Hot Takes is a great way to get large groups to connect and laugh. ...
  • The Candy Game. ...
  • Stop-Walk. ...
  • The Name Game. ...
  • What's on Your Phone. ...
  • Name That Tune. ...
  • My Superpower. ...
  • Personality Groups.
May 1, 2023

What are some motivational activities? ›

22 Motivation Activity Ideas for Students
  • The Share Chair.
  • Change Of Scenery.
  • Stoke Their Competitive Fires.
  • Think Up Their Own Reward.
  • Create A Fun Corner.
  • Assign Some Responsibility.
  • Leverage A Part of Their Daily Lives.
  • Give Them A Desk Pet.
Mar 7, 2023

What is the best active learning strategy? ›

Some teaching strategies that create an active learning environment are: Asking open-ended questions. Encouraging student dialogue and discussion. Having students work in small groups on a group activity.

How many types of active learning are there? ›

Examples of active income are salaries, tips, fees, commissions, and allowances from the companies you provide services to. If you're working for a person or a company–be it manual labor, office work, or home-based service–you earn active income.

How can I make my class more interactive? ›

3 Effective interactive teaching strategies to encourage speech in your classroom
  1. Think, pair and share. Set a problem or a question around a certain topic, and pair up your students. ...
  2. Brainstorming. ...
  3. Buzz session. ...
  4. Exit slips. ...
  5. Misconception check. ...
  6. Circle the questions. ...
  7. Ask the winner. ...
  8. Pair-share-repeat.
Dec 17, 2020

What makes the students enjoy the class? ›

Incorporate mystery into your lessons – Learning is the most fun when it's surprising. Don't just tell them information; cloak it in to mystery. Be crazy, but show you care – Let loose; laugh; make fun of yourself. Don't worry about sacrificing your authority.

How do you stand out in college class? ›

6 Great Ways to Stand Out as a Student (So Teachers Will Give You Strong Recommendation Letters)
  1. Be reliable. Many of the best teachers admire students who don't necessarily follow the rules. ...
  2. Be a team player. ...
  3. Demonstrate curiosity. ...
  4. Visit office hours. ...
  5. Turn in an impressive assignment. ...
  6. Stay in touch.
Oct 7, 2020

What are the six 6 different learning approaches? ›

Specifically, six key learning strategies from cognitive research can be applied to education: spaced practice, interleaving, elaborative interrogation, concrete examples, dual coding, and retrieval practice.

What is advanced active learning method? ›

What is it? Advanced active learning formats are designed to engage a student's critical thinking skills and apply previous and new knowledge to real-life scenarios.

What are the 4 common types of learning? ›

There are 4 predominant learning styles: Visual, Auditory, Read/Write, and Kinaesthetic. While most of us may have some general idea about how we learn best, often it comes as a surprise when we discover what our predominant learning style is.

What are the 7 areas of learning? ›

We'll now take a brief look at each of these 7 areas and why they are important.
  • Communication and language development. ...
  • Physical development. ...
  • Personal, social, and emotional development. ...
  • Literacy development. ...
  • Mathematics. ...
  • Understanding the world. ...
  • Expressive arts and design.
Sep 3, 2016

What are examples of active learning and passive learning? ›

Active LearningPassive Learning
Taking part in Group DiscussionHearing lecture during the class
Doing Presentation in front of audienceReading of a textbook
Playing a role in Role PlaySeeing pictures, charts, tables and graphs
In-depth examination of case studyWatching videos
1 more row
Feb 16, 2021

What are the ten basic activity areas found in most classrooms? ›

When adding provocations to each area, the original purpose for that space guides what is offered there.
  • Dramatic Play. ...
  • Writing Table. ...
  • Reading Area. ...
  • Science and Nature Table. ...
  • Art & Collage Area. ...
  • Maths Area. ...
  • Tinkering. ...
  • Sensory Play Area.
Aug 25, 2018

What is an example activity of learning by doing? ›

Perhaps the most obvious example of the “learning by doing” method has to do with skill development. How did you learn to ride a bike? It was probably not by studying it or from hearing others' experiences, but rather by picking up your vehicle and failing repeatedly – until, one day, you made it.

What is a learning activity in a classroom? ›

Learning activities, as the name suggests, are activities designed or deployed by the teacher to bring about, or create the conditions for learning.

How can a teacher create an active learning environment? ›

  1. Step 1: Analyzing needs for implementing an active learning strategy. ...
  2. Step 2: Identify topic and questions. ...
  3. Step 3: Identify learning objectives & outcomes. ...
  4. Step 4: Plan and design the activity. ...
  5. Step 5: Identify sequence of learning events. ...
  6. Step 6: Evaluate and assess.

Why is active learning important in the classroom? ›

Active learning improves student outcomes

The benefits to using such activities are many, including improved critical thinking skills, increased retention and transfer of new information, increased motivation, improved interpersonal skills, and decreased course failure (Prince, 2004).

What are most common activities? ›

"Cooking & baking" and "Reading" are the top 2 answers among U.S. consumers in our survey on the subject of "Most popular hobbies & activities". The survey was conducted online among 59,934 respondents in the United States, in 2022.

What are lesson plan activities? ›

Learning activities should be directly related to the learning objectives of the course, and provide experiences that will enable students to engage in, practice, and gain feedback on specific progress towards those objectives. As you plan your learning activities, estimate how much time you will spend on each.

What interactive activities keep learners engaged during a lesson? ›

Interactive Classroom Activities
  • Entry/Exit Tickets. ...
  • Free Writing/Minute Paper/Question of the Day Exercise. ...
  • Ice Breakers. ...
  • Think–Pair–Share. ...
  • Case Studies and Problem-Based Learning. ...
  • Debate. ...
  • Interview or Role Play. ...
  • Interactive Demonstrations.

What are exciting activities? ›

50 Best Adrenaline Activities for Thrillseekers
  • 1 – Ice cross karting. ...
  • 2 – Megavalanche bike racing. ...
  • 3 – Bobsleigh riding. ...
  • 4 – Heli-skiing. ...
  • 5 – Slacklining. ...
  • 7 – Bungee jumping. ...
  • 8 – Skydiving. ...
  • 10 – Canyoning.
Sep 22, 2021

What is the pink toe activity? ›

Pink toe

The teacher calls out a colour and a body part. Students must find an object in the room that has that colour and then touch the object with the selected body part. For example, if the teacher calls out “red nose”, students need to find an object that is red and touch it with their nose.

What is an activity engages for fun and enjoyment? ›

Definition of Recreation

Recreation is an activity that people engage in during their free time, that people enjoy, and that people recognize as having socially redeeming values.

What kind of activities may motivate your students? ›

A List Of Simple Ideas To Improve Student Motivation
  • Give students a sense of control. ...
  • Be clear about learning objectives. ...
  • Create a threat-free environment. ...
  • Change your scenery. ...
  • Offer varied experiences. ...
  • Use positive competition. ...
  • Offer rewards. ...
  • Give students responsibility.
Dec 11, 2021

How do you wake up students in class? ›

Here is one way to compassionately wake a student. Preoccupy the rest of the class with a think-pair-share, and while everyone is distracted, lightly touch the sleeper's arm. To help her stay awake, suggest she get a drink of water, stretch in the back of the room, or sit with her back against a cold wall.

What are the 10 types of motivation? ›

Best types of motivation for different activities
  • Reward-based motivation.
  • Attitude motivation.
  • Fear-based motivation.
  • Creative motivation.
  • Achievement motivation.
  • Competence motivation.
  • Power motivation.
Mar 15, 2023

What are 5 ways of motivating learners in the classroom? ›

Here are some strategies that can be used in the classroom to help motivate students:
  • Promote growth mindset over fixed mindset. ...
  • Develop meaningful and respectful relationships with your students. ...
  • Grow a community of learners in your classroom. ...
  • Establish high expectations and establish clear goals. ...
  • Be inspirational.
Jun 4, 2018

How do you motivate an unmotivated class? ›

11 (more) tips to encourage unmotivated students
  1. Better student self talk. ...
  2. Stay motivated yourself. ...
  3. Work to your students' interests. ...
  4. Change layout regularly. ...
  5. Know what to say. ...
  6. Provide a “why” ...
  7. Encourage goal-setting. ...
  8. Be clear with instructions.

How do you motivate a quiet class? ›

How to Engage Quiet Students in the Classroom
  1. Break away from whole group discussions. Whole-group activities remain a common method of instruction. ...
  2. Offer alternatives for discussions and presentations. ...
  3. Use roles to change the group work dynamic. ...
  4. Have private one-on-one conversations with students. ...
  5. Your Turn.
Oct 3, 2019

How do you add active learning to the classroom? ›

Active Learning Techniques for the Classroom
  1. Try a Think-Pair-Share activity to encourage all students to interact with the material. ...
  2. Use a One Minute Paper or Muddiest Point Paper in your class as a formative assessment. ...
  3. With Peer Instruction, you pause during class and ask students a conceptual question.

How do you motivate your students to become active learners in your classroom? ›

Here are some strategies that can be used in the classroom to help motivate students:
  1. Promote growth mindset over fixed mindset. ...
  2. Develop meaningful and respectful relationships with your students. ...
  3. Grow a community of learners in your classroom. ...
  4. Establish high expectations and establish clear goals. ...
  5. Be inspirational.
Jun 4, 2018

Which is the most effective mechanism for active learning? ›

Use of technology

The use of multimedia and technology tools helps enhance the atmosphere of the classroom, thus enhancing the active learning experience. In this way, each student actively engages in the learning process.

How do you motivate a college student? ›

  1. Hold high but realistic expectations for your students.* ...
  2. Help students set achievable goals for themselves. ...
  3. Tell students what they need to do to succeed in your course. ...
  4. Strengthen students' self-motivation. ...
  5. Avoid creating intense competition among students. ...
  6. Be enthusiastic about your subject.

What is an example of motivation in the classroom? ›

An example of intrinsic motivation is a student learning new vocabulary words because they love to read. Extrinsic motivation, however, is learning because of external factors. Students may be motivated to learn to pass a test, to gain a reward, or to avoid a punishment.


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3. ESL Warmer: Yes, No, Stand up
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4. Integrating Teamwork and Active Learning Into The Classroom
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6. Andrew Huberman: "How To Get Rid of Fatigue Using Science!" – You won't believe until you try!
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