All the Instructional Strategies from NTO

I, along with the secondary math specialist team, just finished giving a 2 day training full of learning with our new to the district teachers. I want to thank my coworkers and say that with their hard work and collaboration, this was an incredible PD that has inspired me for our year ahead. The PD was for a group of secondary math teachers new to the district and first year, so it was very diverse group and it was exciting to hear everyone’s voice. I wanted to summarize our instructional strategies we used during the PD as a reflection for myself and hopefully a way to share with others for use in their classrooms and/or PDs. I am going to describe the first activity and then group the others by category.

We started the morning with a Collective Intelligence Resume. This was an awesome way to highlight the strengths and backgrounds each teacher is bringing to their classroom and campus. If you follow me on Instagram (@taplinsteaching), I have more details.

Screen Shot 2019-08-09 at 11.37.46 AM

Below are the strategies by category that we used throughout the PD. Click the links for more description and student materials.

Grouping Strategies

  • Playing Cards for Seating: Teachers got a card when they walked in and found the same card taped on a desk to designate their seat for the day.  These also were a way for us to cold call during the training.
  • Travel Partners: To create partners, we had pictures of four locations (Sydney Opera House, Great Wall of China, Paris Eiffel Tower, and Taj Mahal) on a handout they kept during the PD (would be great inside student interactive notebooks). We played music, had teachers walk around and when the music stopped they met and wrote down the name of the person closest to them for a specific location. Then throughout the day we called upon those locations for pairing. Screen Shot 2019-08-09 at 11.42.10 AM

Summarizing Strategies

  • 3-2-1: On sticky notes teachers wrote 3 things they noticed, 2 things they wondered, and 1 question they had after an activity. Then, they posted these up on big chart paper to read and discuss. This gave structure to a summary and also showed a way to increase writing.
  • Table Top Tweet with a Think and Throw: We posed a question to summarize an activity, teachers wrote a response, crumpled the paper, and when everyone was ready we told them to throw it across the room. Then, teachers picked up a paper next to them and wrote a hashtag to summarize the one they read. This was so fun…who doesn’t love throwing paper across the room!?Screen Shot 2019-08-09 at 2.49.03 PM
  • Bingo with a Blackout: Teachers individually learned a row or column of an activity and then met up with partners around the room to discuss and get blackout of the whole paper. Teachers really enjoyed this as they got to talk to and learn from others. If I were doing this with a class I would structure it so that they had a set amount of time with each person and scaffold the worksheet to where they are not just writing down answers, but really explaining and understanding the process of the answer.
  • Think-pair-share: Given a question, teachers thought independently, paired to discuss, and then shared out. I love doing this as a way to give processing time to students as well as a safe way to share thoughts before sharing to the entire group.
  • Shape Your Thinking: Teachers responded to activity with a handout that had a diagram of a triangle- 3 important points, a circle-anything circling, and a square-anything squared with them. This was a fun visual to use to wrap up the activity.

In Class Activity Strategies

  • Vertical Non-Permanent Surfaces (VNPS): I also explain these more on my Instagram page, but We used these for open ended math problems, goal setting, and group work. These allowed us as facilitators to see work more easily, groups could “spy” on each other, and allowed for movement. Screen Shot 2019-08-09 at 2.51.18 PM
  • Gallery Walk: With the VNPS, we asked teachers to gallery walk to see other’s work and provide positive feedback on sticky notes. I loved seeing teachers learn from each other and value each other’s work. Screen Shot 2019-08-09 at 2.54.57 PM
  • Jigsaw: For this strategy ask groups to number off 1, 2, 3, 4 in home groups. Groups read (or perform a task) in their numbered groups. Groups become experts and then go back to their home group to explain and teach their section. This was a great way to allow participants to become both a learner and a leader. It divides the work up in a different way than a typical direct instruction lesson would. I often used this in class with geometry concepts such as volume or surface areas of 3D: See here.
  • Question Ring: We gave groups a ring of questions to facilitate conversation. I liked this as it gave structure yet flexibility to group conversations.
  • Chalk talk in 4 Corners: We posed 4 questions (write one “a-ha”from yesterday, what are you looking forward to today, using an emoji how did you feel about yesterday, and using an emoji how do you feel today) and hung them up on the wall in 4 corners. Teachers responded silently to the question and to others. Chalk talk is a great activity to make for a safe environment of communication as well as increasing writing. The four corners aspect was a little different than the protocol so click the link to read more, but having the corners helped to vary the questions, give choice, and allow for movement in your classroom.
  • Sorting: Given Hattie’s Visible Learning Strategies, teachers sorted them into levels of achievement. By having teachers predict first, then check, I felt like the engagement was a lot higher than if we had just given them the answers. Screen Shot 2019-08-09 at 2.53.39 PM


  • Which one Doesn’t Belong: Teachers chose one and first wrote, then explained why it doesn’t belong among the others. This site is organized by category and helps build justification skills as well as previewing or using vocabulary.
  • Open Middle: We gave teachers a sample question and it was so exciting to watch the engagement and celebrations when they solved it correctly. This site is organized by subject and also includes a Depth of Knowledge matrix to help scaffold and extend learning.
  • Estimation180: I showed teachers this website as a great tool for number sense, reasoning, and estimation.
  • Desmos and Desmos Activity Builder: This is another great resource not only for a visual calculator, but also for hands on activities and challenges that are enriching and powerful in asking students to explore, justify, and write.
  • Lead4ward: In addition to the strategies already linked, Lead4ward has an entire Strategies Playlist to draw from. The app is really helpful tool for checks for understanding and sentence stems. Through the app and online you can find field guides and resources for planning.

Social Emotional Learning (SEL)

  • Optimistic Closure with Dice: To close day 1, we gave teachers 6 numbered prompts to answer such as one thing I learned today was, someone I was able to help was, something I enjoyed about today was…etc. Teachers rolled a dice and answered that corresponding prompt on a paper to turn in as an exit ticket. This helped us as feedback for the day and close in an optimistic way.
  • One Word Whip Around: Everyone shared out one word that summarizes their thinking. We used this after reading a passage about classroom environment and after our hashtags from the Table Top Tweet. It was a cool way to hear everyone’s voice and what they found important. This would be a cool way to end a lesson for the teacher to hear what students found valuable and/or how they felt about it as well as allowing all student’s voice.

For the GoogleDoc Playbook version click here

Follow me on Instagram: @taplinsteaching

Follow me on Twitter: @AshleyPTaplin


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