by Bonnie Ceban
English Instructor, Terry Campus
Delaware Technical Community College
Tags: Active and Collaborative Learning

I decided to try a creative group activity that would engage my students in a productive discussion regarding their textbook reading. To prepare for the activity, students were asked to read a textbook section that reviewed the key concepts a writer should address before creating the first draft of a major writing assignment.

The Activity
When students arrived to class, they counted off numbers in order to create randomly-assigned groups. These groups (of 4) were provided a designated space in the classroom and given poster paper and markers. I asked the groups to discuss their reading and then determine how they would best represent their understanding of the chapter in visual form. A PowerPoint side explaining the activity was on the screen for the groups to reference.  Time Allowed: 15 Minutes Max

My Observations
I was pleasantly surprised by the depth of discussion in many of the groups – I could hear students applying concepts to previous assignments and comparing ideas to prior instruction. I was also impressed to hear students quoting almost directly from the textbook reading.

  • Surprise #1: They were willing to have meaningful discussion at 8:00am!
  • Surprise #2: Many of them had actually read the material in great detail!

Once the groups completed their discussion and poster representation, they each took  approximately two minutes to explain their visual and describe their understanding of the writing process. I was once again impressed with their performance, as the presentations were a clear and well-spoken representation of their ideas.

I Liked This Activity Because…

  • it allowed them to move around and ‘wake up’ at the beginning of class
  • it created meaningful discussion about their textbook reading
  • it helped them apply their reading to past experiences
  • it engaged visual learners in a new & different way
  • it taught the benefits of creating a visual (map) of a textbook reading for studying purposes

Application in Other Class Settings

The concept of creating a visual representation of a textbook reading could be completed in many courses as a quick way to gauge student understanding and interpretation of the text, establish discussion, and teach the skill of mapping ideas in order to organize large reading concepts.

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