3 - 2 - 1 exampleThis activity can be used as both a Connection and Summary Activity and asks students to uncover their initial thoughts, ideas, questions and understandings about a topic and then to connect these to new thinking about the topic after they have received some instruction. It involves asking student to respond to the following prompts:

  • What are 3 Thoughts/Ideas you have related to the topic?
  • What are 2 Questions you have about the topic?
  • What is 1 Analogy/Metaphor related to the topic?

This activity can be introduced as a Connection Activity by having students’ complete an initial 3-2-1 individually prior to the lesson. After the lesson, students complete another 3-2-1. Students then share their initial and new thinking, explaining to their partners how and why their thinking shifted. The following is an example:

application card exampleThis activity provides students with an opportunity to apply concepts to real-world applications and makes a great Practice Activity as it asks students to speak immediately to the ways in which new material can be applied in real world settings. After students have been introduced to some principle, generalization, theory, or procedure, you can pass out index cards and ask students to write down at least one possible, real-world application for what they have just learned.

approximate analogy exampleFor this activity, students are asked to complete the second half of an analogy. The first half is a key relationship or idea from the content, and the second half is meant to check overall understanding of the connection between different concepts. It can be as simple as "A is to B and X is to Y." For a variation, the professor can provide three of the four possible blanks for students, leaving less possible answers. This activity helps students understand the relationship between two concepts or terms given as the first part of the analogy and connect the new relationship to one they are more familiar with. The image on the right is an example of an Approximate Analogy activity.

When developing Content Activities, you do not have to create all of the material yourself. You can assign readings from a textbook, e-book, journal article, website, online newspaper, magazine, wiki, blog etc. When using assigned readings, it is recommended that you provide a short introduction to orientate your students to the material. You can also provide your expert interpretation and thoughts to supplement the assigned reading material, but be careful not to merely repeat what students can find in these resources. You may also want to provide students with some guiding questions to assist with assigned readings. The following are some examples of guiding questions that you can adapt:

assigned readings chartBefore your read the article, please take a moment to think about the following questions:

  • What do I need to do before reading the article to increase my understanding?
  • What am I supposed to learn from in this article?
  • What's the best strategy for reading this article?
  • What do I already know about the topic?

As you are reading the article, please consider the following questions:

  • What do I need to do while I am reading this article to increase my understanding?
  • What don't I understand?
  • What's confusing me?
  • What information is important to remember?

When you finish reading the article, please reflect on the following questions:

  • What do I need to do after I complete the article? What questions do I need to ask myself about the article?
  • What were the most important ideas in this article?
  • How can I remember what I’ve learned?
  • What do I want to learn more about now?

You can also consider incorporating a Select a Sentence activity, where you ask each student or groups of students to identify one sentence from the assigned reading that they believe contains a significant idea for the class topic. You can then take each of the sentences, pulls together themes, and help students think through the main ideas of the class. In addition, you could use an Anticipation Guide strategy that asks students to respond to a series of questions and to make predictions prior to reading assigned text in order to activate prior knowledge and increase curiosity. This activity encourages and motivates students to read closely and critically think about what they are reading.

The Durham College Library has a large collection of e-books which you can browse or search for material. You can also use sites such as Google Scholar; Microsoft Academic Search; and Mendeley to locate readings or you can setup a Google Alert to alert you of new readings that might be of interest

Audio, in the form of voice recordings, musical soundtracks, sound effects, audio description, etc. can be used on its own as a Content Activity when a visual element is not needed. Audio can be used for a variety of purposes including, mastering auditory skills or techniques (i.e. language pronunciation, analysis of musical structure, mathematical computation), sharing interviews with subject matter experts, sharing short lectures, oral histories, etc. When incorporating audio, it is recommended that you avoid overly complex and dense content material that includes lots of facts and figures, use shorter clips to keep students engaged, and make sure that the audio fits with the learning outcomes of the course/module. For more information about using audio, please see Tony Bates article on Seeking the unique pedagogical characteristics of Audio.

You can create audio clips using tools such as Audacity, and Vocaroo.

Similar to a case study, a branching scenario places learners into situations or contexts where they are required to make decisions along the way. The aim is for the learner to learn by thinking about these decisions, making them, and then experiencing or seeing the consequences of those decisions. As the learner makes decisions, you can use a branching scenario to show your learner the consequences of different choices, sort of like a Choose Your Own Adventure Book. Branching scenario can make great Practice Activities.

You can create your own text-based branching scenarios using Twine which is free, and publishes scenarios in easily customized, accessible HTML such as the following language-learning activity. You can also create video-based branching scenarios using the Annotation Feature in YouTube such as the following Example.

For more information about how to design a branching scenario check out the following:


Case studies can be used to present realistic, complex, and contextually rich situations and to demonstrate the application of a theory or concept to real-life situations. As a Connection Activity you can present a case study that cannot be solved without knowledge to be gained from the lesson. Throughout the lesson you can refer back to the case and students can work on developing a solution based on the information from the lesson. You can write you own case studies based on your professional experiences, from current events, from historical sources, or you can also find published cases from textbooks and online case study collections including The National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science and CASES Online.

Example - Analyzing an Organization

Before you get started on this module, think about the organization you currently work for or think about one that you are currently networking with for employment opportunities and answer the following questions:

  • What are some of the characteristics you personally admire about this organization? Why?
  • What kinds of opportunities are available within the organization for career management and development?
  • Would you refer a colleague or friend to this organization? Why?

Example - Inappropriate Social Media Comments

The dramatic growth of social media use in Canada on such sites as Facebook has raised new legal issues for employers and employees where employee rights and discipline are concerned. One such issue is whether or not an employee's off-duty conduct online (i.e. posting personal status updates, photos or comments on Facebook at home etc.) can get that employee dismissed. In short, the answer is yes.

Example 1

"Justin Hutchings of London, Ontario, learned the hard way about the consequences of making an inappropriate Facebook post. Mr. Hutchings posted an offensive comment on teen bullying victim Amanda Todd's memorial page, which was open to the public. Because Mr. Hutchings had identified his employer, Big & Tall Menswear, on his own profile, the employer received a direct complaint about the offensive post. Mr. Hutchings was fired for conduct that was considered contrary to the company's policy of treating all individuals honourably and, arguably, for conduct that would bring the employer into disrepute."

Example 2

"One Bell Technical Solutions technician who made several insulting remarks about his manager on Facebook was suspended and another technician who regularly complained about his job and made disparaging comments about both his manager and the company on his Facebook page was dismissed."

Regardless of whether employees intend their posts to be relatively private, courts and arbitrators have tended to conclude that posts on social media sites are easily disseminated and may be considered public if viewed by "friends." Therefore, how employees present themselves outside of the workplace can have a direct impact on disciplinary procedures.

Should an employee be disciplined for inappropriate social media comments? Do you agree or disagree?

The Cocktail Party learning technique is best used for helping students deduce underlying principles from multiple examples; topics that students are likely to have personal experience with.

How to implement a cocktail party

Students stand, and form into pairs. When directed, they exchange stories or experiences in relation to the given topic. On the signal, students mill around the room, re-forming into new pairs and exchanging stories again. Repeat 5-6 times. As a large group, debrief, asking about common threads in the stories exchanged. Develop principles from these threads.

This activity asks students to reflect on 3 items that stand out most about the lesson and asks them to respond to the following prompts:

  • For one of these, choose a colour that you feel best represents or captures the essence of that idea.
  • For another one, choose a symbol that you feel best represents or captures the essence of that idea.
  • For the other one, choose an image that you feel best represents or captures the essence of that idea.

comic strip exampleThe use of a comic strip can help to spark reflection and get students thinking about the lesson topic. You can also use a comic to present a case scenario that can be used to introduce the topic.

You can create your own custom comic strips using Storyboard That or ToonDoo.

concept map exampleConcept Maps are drawings or diagrams showing the mental connections that students make between a major concept stressed in class and other concepts they have learned. Having students create concept maps as a Practice Activity can provide you with insights into how they organize and represent knowledge. Concept maps include concepts, usually enclosed in circles or boxes, and relationships between concepts, indicated by a connecting line. Words on the line are linking words and specify the relationship between concepts. There are a variety of tools that can be used to create concept maps including:

This activity helps students make connections between new ideas and prior knowledge. It also encourages them to take stock of ongoing questions, puzzles and difficulties as they reflect on what they are learning. It involves asking students to respond to the following prompts:

  • CONNECT: How are the ideas and information presented CONNECTED to what you already knew?
  • EXTEND: What new ideas did you get that EXTENDED or pushed your thinking in new directions?
  • CHALLENGE: What is still CHALLENGING or confusing for you to get your mind around? What questions, wonderings or puzzles do you now have?

A debate is a formal contest of argumentation between two teams, during which one team supports while the other team opposes a given proposition. Debate can be very powerful Practice Activity especially when you have content that may be considered controversial. Debate activities can involve either a selected number of students or the whole class, and can be facilitated face-to-face or online. For more information on how to facilitate a debate, please check out the International Debate Education Association and Designing Online Debates.

pros and cons tableAnother option for a Practice Activity that examines the different viewpoints of a topic is a Pro/Con grid which asks students are asked to jot down a quick list of pros and cons, costs and benefits, or advantages and disadvantages on an issue. This activity helps students to learn about decision making process and apply a clear comparison method to make an educated decision. This technique can be used as a Practice Activity in any course where questions of value are an implicit part of the syllabus.

defining features matrix exampleThis activity requires students to categorize concepts according to the presence (+) or absence (-) of important defining features, thereby providing data on their analytic reading and thinking skills. When using this as a Practice Activity, choose a limited number of items or classes of items that are similar enough to confuse your students. Determine what the most important features are that the students must recognize to correctly categorize these items. Make a list of defining features that each category either possesses or does not possess. These must be rather clear-cut in terms of their presence or absence, although the categories may share a limited number of features. Sketch out a matrix with features listed down the left side and categories across the top, or vice versa. Ask students to complete the matrix and provide a time limit for doing so. The following is an example of a Defining Features Matrix:

In this activity, students are directed to paraphrase content, using their own words, for a specific audience and purpose, and within specific page-length or speaking-time limits. The purpose is to assess the degree to which students have understood and internalized the content by collecting feedback on their ability to summarize and restate the material in their own words. When using this technique as a Practice Activity, determine what content you would like students to paraphrase, who the audience should be, and how much speaking time or writing space would be reasonable for such a paraphrase. Direct the students to prepare a paraphrase of the chosen content. Tell them who the intended audience is and what the limits are on speaking time or number of pages.

answer garden exampleThe posing of a discussion question as a Connection Activity can be used to invite students to share their opinions and experiences about the lesson topic and can encourage multiple viewpoints. Consider asking questions that will encourage students to relate to the lesson topic on a more personal level. For example, "What does x term mean to you?"; "What experience have you had with x topic?" You can pair students or group them in threes or fours, and let them discuss the question. This encourages participation from all students, even those who may be hesitant speaking up in a whole-class discussion.

You can also use the Discussion Tool in DC Connect to facilitate an online discussion, or you can use a tool such as AnswerGarden to create a word cloud of student responses.

documented problem solving templateThe documented problems technique asks students to show both their work and show the reasoning behind their work, which provides extremely valuable and detailed information about any conceptual difficulties or lingering misconceptions students may have, as well as an overview of the basic strategies they are using to solve problems. The primary emphasis of this activity is on documenting the steps the students go through in attempting to solve the problems rather than on whether the answers are correct or not. Documented problems are an extremely effective means of helping students clarify their thinking and gain more deliberate control over their approach to problem solving. Documentation of a problem can be something as simple as a brief paragraph or two of what was done (and why) or extensive as a line-by-line report of each step in a mathematical proof (Angelo & Cross, 1993).

Electronic bulletin boards allow students to share digital content including text, images, videos and web pages. They can be used to facilitate a variety of Practice Activities including brainstorming, group discussion, reflection and peer sharing. You can create electronic bulletin boards the whole class where they can collect and share ideas about a given topic, or you can create separate boards for groups of students. Examples of electronic bulletin board tools include Lino It and Padlet. The following is an example of a Practice Activity using an electronic bulletin board:

Inviting a guest speaker as a Content Activity provides students with access to additional perspectives and can add variety to the course material. You can have a guest attend in person, or you can facilitate a remote guest speaker using tools such as Skype. You can also record a Skype conversation with a guest expert using Vodburner which students can watch on their own time.

To get the most out of your session with your guest speaker, it is best to prepare both the speaker and the students for the session. You can provide student with a template of questions to be answered during the experience, or require a reflection of some kind, after the experience.

The following article provides some helpful tips for getting the most out of guest speakers:

Getting the Most out of Guest Experts Who Speak to Your Class – Faculty Focus

This Practice Activity draws on the idea of newspaper-type headlines as a vehicle for summing up and capturing the essence of an event, idea, concept, topic, etc. This activity asks one core question:

  • If you were to write a headline for this topic or issue right now that captured the most important aspect that should be remembered, what would that headline be?

A second question involves probing how students' ideas of what is most important and central to the topic being explored have changed over time:

  • How has your headline changed based on today's discussion? How does it differ from what you would have said yesterday?

This activity helps students capture the core or heart of the matter being studied or discussed. It also can involve them in summing things up and coming to some tentative conclusions.