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The BEST Whole Group Engagement Strategies

October 24, 2019 by Emily

“Tell me and I forget.  Teach me and I remember.  Involve me and I learn.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

Engaging students in their learning has become an integral part of instruction.  The more we can involve students in our lessons, the more likely they are to retain the information being taught.  Here are some engagement strategies that you can add to your teaching toolbox.

We asked our community of educators to share with us their favorite whole group engagement strategies and have collected them here.  Some of the strategies are self-explanatory and those that require a little more information/explanation have been spotlighted in this blog post.

The BEST Engagement Strategies for Whole Group Instruction

Get Them Moving!

“Throwing a paper tape ball around the room.  Everyone wants to participate as soon as I pull that out.” ~ Megan K.

“Anything that gets them standing up, walking around, and talking to each other.” ~ Spencer R.

“I’m not opposed to singing or dancing.” ~ Patricia H.

“I have a ball I throw around that helps!” ~ Kaitlyn A.

“Stand up, Hand up, Pair up.” ~ June C.

“Partner talk, stand up hands up, fun fast brain breaks.” ~ Heather J.

Total Physical Response (TPR)

An approach to teaching language based on the idea that if you have to do something physical in response to language, then learning is more meaningful, and you learn faster. (Example:  students are learning the word “delicious” – while rubbing their tummies and licking their lips) ~ developed by James Asher

Working With Others

“My kids love it when they get to call on others to answer or add on to their answers during class discussions! ~ Kaitlyn A.

“I also try to make whole group lessons as student led as possible – let the kids be the teachers.  If we’re doing math work on whiteboards, a student will come up to explain how to solve the problem and the strategies he/she used.  We have hand signals for students in the audience to show that they agree or disagree and it’s more conversational.” ~ Lacey W-K.

“I call on students to explain their thinking… then I’ll have some kids ‘whisper’ their thinking to another person.  That person either whispers their thinking back or can send the other person’s thinking along… It’s truly nothing, but the kids are always psyched to be the two ‘whisperers’. LOL ~ Camille F.

The kids share their ideas, explain their thinking with their shoulder or table partners.  We do show 1 or 2, thumbs up, thumbs down for a lot of things.  We read together, answer together, and use individual whiteboards.” ~ Stacey S-G.

“Consensus maps, Doodle Notes, 4 corners, carousel.” ~ Amanda S.

Doodle Notes

This engagement strategy combines language (written lesson) with graphics (doodles/pictures) to convert information into long term memory.  You can have pairs of students complete a doodle note together as they share information.  For more information on Doodle Notes, visit this website.

Write It Down

“Scoot, gallery walks, thumbs up/thumbs down, white boards.” ~ Nicole D.

“Gallery walks.  Anything on a sticky note.  Turn and talk.  Stop and Jot.  Quick writes.” ~ Jenny A.

“Pass the page.” ~ Anonymous

“White boards, turn and talks, humor, correlating anything ELA to real life, reacting to our reading, reflecting on our writing. ~ Patricia H.

Gallery Walks

The gallery walk is a small group discussion technique that keep students actively engaged while walking around the classroom.  It allows students to share ideas and respond to questions, graphics, or problem-solving situations.

Write down your questions, vocabulary, and/or problems on large chart paper and post around the room.  Separate students into groups (make sure you have one group assigned to each poster paper).

At their first station, students will discuss/answer the question(s), define the vocabulary, or discuss/solve the problem on their poster.  After a given amount of time, have student groups rotate to the next poster, where they discuss the new material and add information to that poster.  This continues until the groups have visited all posters in the classroom.

The reflection part of this strategy is very important.  Once they’ve visited all other posters, the group returns to their own to review/discuss the information other groups added.  Then as a class, have a discussion about what they learned.  For accountability, you may also hand out a review page for all students to record their responses on.

Keep Us on Our Toes

“Round Robin reading.” ~ Adrian S.

“Real life for sure, starting with my sharing a story.  There’s always someone who wants to share a story.  Also the not knowing who will be called upon, so everyone has to pay attention.  Flippity is good for that.” ~ Natasha Z.

“We do think, pair and share with our whole group lessons.  I also use equity sticks with the students names so that I can make sure I am not calling on the same students.  They also perk up when they know their name might get called.” ~ Tara S.



This is a program that can allow you to create flashcards, quiz shows, and random name pickers.  It corresponds with Google Spreadsheets and is the new-age version of pulling popsicle sticks with names out of a can. LOL  For more information on Flippity, visit this website.

Instructional Engagement Programs

“Kagan strategies.” ~ Jana P.

“GLAD strategies are great in increasing student vocabulary, group collaboration, grammar skills within creative writing, and good classroom management.” ~ Molly F-J.

“Whole brain teaching mirror strategy!” ~ Shelbi R.

“Whole brain teaching!  We use mirror, teach okay, and hand signals for a lot of things.” ~ Melissa J.

“Whole brain” ~ Kimberly G-D.

“Whole brain – teach/okay, mirror and when all of them want to answer I have them whisper the answer in their hand then let the answer out loud.  They all get to share that way!” ~ Amanda J.

Whole Brain Teaching

These strategies are designed to maximize student engagement in lessons, positive interactions with classmates, and educational fun. Instruction includes vocal directions mixed with hand gestures, inflections, full body movement, head motions, and chants.

The mirror strategy is one that we teachers have used for years.  It maximizes deep engagement from the students.  The teacher holds up both hands on either side of their face and says “Mirror”.  Students mimic the gesture and repeat “Mirror”.  Now whatever gestures you make, the students have to copy you.   Therefore they are completely engaged in the entire lesson until you tell them they can stop.

For more information on whole brain instruction, click here.

Kagan Strategies

These strategies rely on student interaction to maximize cooperation, communication, and active engagement by all students.  Every student must participate in the discussion, as they each play an integral part in their group.

For more information on Kagan structures/strategies, click here.

GLAD Strategies

The acronym stands for Guided Language Acquisition Design.  This is an instructional approach that combines a variety of strategies to support bilingual students.  It combines graphic organizers, vocabulary development, team collaboration, and whole group discussion to help English Language Learners acquire academic information while building language.

For graphics and other ideas related to GLAD, click here.

A lot of these strategies sound amazing!  We definitely are in company with some very talented teachers!  I can’t wait to try some of them out in my classroom.  Please feel free to comment below with your “go to” strategies.  All of us would love to hear your tips and tricks too.

-Written by Janessa Fletcher

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