In today’s post, I compiled a list of 30 instructional strategies designed to promote active learning, critical thinking, and collaboration among your students. From classic techniques to innovative approaches, these strategies will empower you to create dynamic and inclusive learning environments that cater to various learning styles and preferences.
This post complements another post where I talked about the four main instructional paradigms every teacher should know about.
Here are some key instructional strategies examples. Here the free PDF version of this post.
1. Direct instruction
Explicitly teaching content using lectures, demonstrations, or guided practice.
Example: A teacher demonstrates how to solve a quadratic equation step-by-step on the whiteboard and then assigns practice problems for students to complete
2. Inquiry-based learning
Encouraging students to ask questions, explore concepts, and develop their own understanding.
Example: Students are given a question, such as “What factors contribute to climate change?” and are encouraged to research, explore, and discuss the topic in small groups.
3. Cooperative learning
Using small-group activities to promote collaboration, peer support, and collective problem-solving.
Example: Students work in small groups to create a presentation on different aspects of the water cycle, with each group member responsible for one specific aspect.
4. Socratic questioning
Engaging students in critical thinking through open-ended questions and dialogue.
Example: A teacher facilitates a class discussion on the impact of social media on society, asking open-ended questions that encourage students to think critically and analyze different perspectives.
5. Graphic organizers
Providing visual tools to help students organize and comprehend complex information.
Example: Students use a Venn diagram to compare and contrast two characters from a novel they have read.
Encouraging students to think individually, discuss with a partner, and then share with the class.
Example: After introducing a new concept, a teacher asks students to think about an example, discuss it with a partner, and then share their example with the class.
7. Concept mapping
Creating visual diagrams to represent relationships between ideas and concepts.
Example: Students create a concept map to show the connections between various elements of photosynthesis.
Dividing a topic into smaller parts, assigning each to a group of students, and then reassembling the pieces to form a complete understanding.
Example: A class is divided into groups, with each group researching a different aspect of World War II. Then, students form new groups with representatives from each original group, sharing and combining their knowledge.
9. Flipped classroom
Delivering content outside of class (e.g., through videos) and using class time for interactive activities and discussions.
Example: Students watch a video lecture on the causes of the Great Depression at home and then participate in a simulation activity in class to deepen their understanding.
10. Project-based learning
Engaging students in real-world projects that require problem-solving, collaboration, and critical thinking.
Example: Students design and execute a community service project, such as organizing a food drive or creating a public awareness campaign about environmental conservation.
11. Differentiated instruction
Adapting teaching methods and materials to meet the diverse needs of individual learners.
Example: A teacher provides multiple options for students to demonstrate their understanding of a concept, such as writing an essay, creating a visual presentation, or performing a skit.
12. Case studies
Analyzing real-life situations to apply theoretical concepts and develop problem-solving skills.
Example: In a business class, students analyze a real-life company’s strategic decisions and discuss the impact of those decisions on the company’s success.
Encouraging students to act out scenarios to better understand different perspectives or situations.
Example: Students act out a negotiation scenario between two countries, taking on the roles of diplomats to understand the complexities of international diplomacy.
14. Peer teaching
Allowing students to teach and learn from one another.
Example: Students who have mastered a particular skill or concept teach it to their classmates, reinforcing their own understanding and helping others learn.
15. Gallery walk
Arranging student work or information around the room, allowing students to circulate and engage with the material.
Example: Students create posters about different renewable energy sources and then circulate around the room to learn about each source from their peers’ work.
Encouraging creative thinking by generating ideas without judgment or limitations.
Example: In a creative writing class, students generate a list of possible story ideas and plot points before selecting one to develop further.
17. Mnemonic devices
Teaching memory techniques to help students remember key information.
Example: A teacher introduces the acronym PEMDAS (Parentheses, Exponents, Multiplication and Division, Addition and Subtraction) to help students remember the order of operations in mathematics.
18. Exit tickets
Asking students to write a brief summary or reflection at the end of a lesson to assess understanding.
Example: At the end of a lesson on photosynthesis, students write a brief summary of the process or answer a specific question to demonstrate their understanding.
Organizing the classroom into different activity areas, where students rotate through tasks or exercises.
Example: In a science class, students rotate through various stations where they conduct experiments, analyze data, and discuss their findings.
20. Fishbowl discussion
Arranging students in an inner circle to discuss a topic while the outer circle observes and takes notes. Learn more about fishbowl strategy here.
Example: A group of students discuss a controversial topic in the center of the room while the rest of the class observes and takes notes, then the groups switch roles.
Assigning students to argue opposing viewpoints on a controversial issue to develop critical thinking and communication skills.
Example: Students are divided into teams and assigned to argue either for or against a proposed law or policy, such as implementing a carbon tax or raising the minimum wage.
Drawing comparisons between new concepts and familiar ones to facilitate understanding.
Example: A teacher explains the concept of diffusion in biology by comparing it to the way a drop of food coloring disperses in a glass of water.
23. Guided notes
Providing students with partially completed notes that they complete during a lecture or discussion.
Example: Students are provided with an outline of a lecture, including key points and partially completed sentences, which they complete as they listen to the lecture.
Using narratives to engage students and illustrate important concepts or principles.
Example: A history teacher shares a narrative about the experiences of a soldier during World War I to help students better understand the conditions and challenges faced by those in the trenches.
25. Mind mapping
Creating visual representations of information to help students see connections and hierarchies.
Example: Students create a mind map to visually represent the relationships between characters in a novel, with lines and arrows indicating connections and interactions.
Engaging students in realistic scenarios to promote understanding and application of concepts.
Example: In a social studies class, students participate in a mock trial to understand the legal process and explore issues related to justice and fairness.
27. Problem-based learning
Presenting students with complex, real-world problems that require higher-order thinking and collaboration to solve.
Example: Students in a math class are given a real-world problem, such as planning a trip on a limited budget, and must use mathematical concepts to find the most cost-effective solution.
28. Learning centers
Designating areas in the classroom for specific activities, such as reading, writing, or hands-on exploration.
Example: In a language arts classroom, students rotate through various learning centers focused on reading, writing, listening, and speaking activities.
Encouraging students to reflect on their own learning progress and identify areas for improvement.
Example: Students complete a self-reflection questionnaire after a group project, evaluating their own contributions and identifying areas for improvement.
Delivering short, focused instruction on a specific skill or concept, followed by immediate practice or application.
Example: A teacher delivers a short lesson on using commas in a sentence, followed by students practicing the skill through a series of exercises.
I hope you find these instructional strategies to be valuable resources for transforming your teaching practice and inspiring your students to reach their full potential. Remember, the key is to diversify your instructional methods so you can cater to the unique needs and strengths of each student.
Certainly, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to teaching; the key is to remain flexible and open to trying new techniques that can foster a positive and inclusive learning environment. As you continue to grow and evolve as an educator, these strategies will serve as a foundation upon which you can build a truly exceptional educational experience for your students.
Books on instructional strategies
Here are some good books to help you learn more about instructional strategies. For summaries of the books check out my post entitled Best Teaching Strategies Books.
1- How to Differentiate Instruction in Academically Diverse Classrooms , by Carol Ann Tomlinson
2- Effective Instructional Strategies: From Theory to Practice, by Kenneth D. Moore
3- The New Art and Science of Teaching , by Robert J. Marzano
4. Differentiated Instructional Strategies, by Gayle H. Gregory, Carolyn M. Chapman
5. Teach Like a Champion 3.0, by Doug Lemov
6. The Skillful Teacher, by Stephen D. Brookfield
7. Understanding by Design, by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe
8.Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning by John Hattie
9. The Art of Teaching, by Gilbert Highet
10.Highly Effective Teaching Strategies, by Marc Hoberman