ABC Taxonomy

A taxonomy is an alphabetical list of terms related to a topic or subject that develops skills of categorization. Taxonomies assist students with the following skills:
               – organizing prior, ongoing, and new knowledge
               – expanding vocabulary
               – taking notes
               – focusing on a topic
               – building a personal thesaurus

How to Use the Strategy:
  1. Choose a topic or subject that students need to categorize.
  2. Hand out an ABC Taxonomy to each student.
  3. Students individually fill out the ABC Taxonomy. Students should think of a word that begins with each letter of the alphabet that relates in some way to the topic/subject. (1 minute)
  4. Students should now share their ABC Taxonomy with a partner (2 minutes)
  5. Students should now share their ABC Taxonomy with their table group, and use their taxonomies to create a unified definition (meaning) of the topic/subject (5 minutes).
  6. Each group presents their definitions/meanings to the whole group.

Four Corners

Four Corners is used to gather data in a quick, visual way that is engaging to students. Students respond to a multiple choice question by moving to one of the four possible answers that are posted in four different corners of the classroom.

How to Use the Strategy:
  1. Teacher identifies the kind of data he/she wishes to gather. For example, create a statement in which the students can answer Strongly Agree, Agree, Disagree, Strongly Disagree.
  2. Post the four multiple choice responses, one in each corner of the classroom. 
  3. Allow students to move to their response to the statement.
  4. Members of each response group discuss their choices in their corner of the classroom.
  5. A spokesperson from each response group summarizes their discussion and presents his/her group’s thoughts.

Consensus Circle

Consensus Circle is an activity that allows all students to share their viewpoints with each other before coming to an agreement.

How to Use the Strategy:
  1. Divide students into 4 person groups. The groups should be diverse in terms of gender and ability.
  2. Pass out an index card to each student. Students should write their name at the top of their card.  **More index cards could be given to each student if there are more topics that need to be discussed.**
  3. On the index cards, students should write the topic/subject in which they will eventually brainstorm about.
  4. Each student writes 3 statements that describe the topic/subject on his/her index card.
  5. Each student passes his/her index card to the person on his/her left who will place a checkmark next to the statement they most agree with. Each person at the table should read and check all four cards of everyone at the table.
  6. Each table should then discuss and select their top choice (one only) for the topic/subject.
  7. Once the top choice has been selected, have a table member write it on chart paper posted in the classroom.  
  8. The teacher should tie the activity together with some final statements.


Jigsaw is an efficient way to learn material in a limited amount of time. It also encourages listening, engagement, and empathy by giving each group member an essential part to play in the activity. 

How to Use the Strategy:
  1. Divide students into 5-6 person Jigsaw groups. The groups should be diverse in terms of gender and ability.
  2. Divide the lesson (the reading) into 5-6 segments. For example, if you are doing a lesson on Eleanor Roosevelt, you might divide her biography into the following segments (1) childhood, (2) family life w/Franklin and kids, (3) Life after Franklin’s polio diagnosis, (4) First Lady, (5) Life after Franklin’s death. 
  3. Assign each student in the Jigsaw group to learn one segment of the lesson (the reading). Give them time to read their assigned segment.
  4. Now divide the class into Expert groups. Each member of the Jigsaw group will go to a different Expert group based on their assigned segment. For example, all of the students who read about Eleanor Roosevelt’s childhood will gather together, etc.
  5. Give time for the Expert groups to discuss the main points of their segment.
  6. Students then return to their Jigsaw groups.
  7. Each member of the Jigsaw group then presents his/her assigned segment to the group. Encourage students to ask questions for clarification.
  8. Teacher should provide some type of closure (ie: sum up discussions, present missed points, give a quiz, etc.)

Final Word

The Final Word can be used to expand a group’s understanding of a text in a focused way and in a limited amount of time.

Students work in groups of four.
The person in each group who starts gets 4 minutes
Each person in the group gets 3 minutes to respond (3 people = 9 minutes)
The person who started has the FINAL WORD – 2 minutes

How to Use the Strategy:
  1. 1. Read the text
  2. 2. Each person selects and marks what is for him/her one significant quote/section of the text.

For each Round (4 Rounds of 15 Minutes Each)
  1. Begin by designating a timekeeper/facilitator. This role should not be filled by the person who will begin the round (and who has the FINAL WORD)
  2. One person begins by explaining the significance of his/her quote/selection from the text to the group (4 minutes)
  3. After this person is finished, each person then comments on the same quote/section as the one the first person in the round chose. You may choose to respond to what the first person has said, OR to speak to the quote or section in any other way that extends the group’s understanding of the text. Each person in the group has 3 minutes to respond, for a total of 9 minutes. 
  4. The person who started, then has the FINAL WORD. (2 minutes)

ROUND TWO then begins, with the next person explaining the significance of his/her quote/selection from the text to the group. Rounds two, three, and four follow the same format as Round One.

Leaderless Discussion

Leaderless Discussion is a thinking routine that encourages discourse and promotes understanding of a piece of text.  Students come prepared for the discussion with two questions that encourage a deeper understanding of the material rather than just comprehension of the text.  Students may need “Question Starters” when first being taught the routine in order to formulate their questions successfully.