“Active learning is learning which engages and challenges children’s thinking. It embraces the principles of approaches such as Critical Skills, Enterprising Learning and Teaching, Co-operative Learning and Thinking Skills.”
(Edinburgh City Council Position Paper, 2009)

“We learn by doing. Research shows that active learning is much better recalled, enjoyed and understood. Active methods require us to ‘make our own meaning’, that is, develop our own conceptualisations of what we are learning. During this process we physically make neural connections in our brain, the process we call learning. Passive methods such as listening do not require us to make these neural connections or conceptualisations.”
Geoff Petty

Active learning also targets different learning styles and develops higher order thinking. Tasks usually involve elements of problem solving, decision making, explaining to others etc.


Active Learning Techniques


Class arranged into groups.
• Each group has a question/topic to brainstorm. (timed to suit)
• Groups then rotate and evaluate each others work.


• On large paper make a placemat
• Individuals write on their own section.
• Rotate and allow others to read all comments, or/add extra.
• Best idea/s go into centre – group decision.

Market Place/One Stay, Others Stray 

• Each group works on project/ poster/ model/ topic.
• Once complete one member of each group stays as stallholder to explain to other rotating groups return to original seats & feedback to stallholder. All pupils tested on knowledge.

Big Picture/Running Dictation 

1. Teacher prepares picture/ poster.
2. Pupils are put into groups and numbered/ coloured within the group.
3. Each group are given paper & pens.
4. Task is to reproduce picture/ poster as accurately as possible.
5. A number from each group is called out and that pupil is given a set time to study picture, return to group and reproduce.
6. Each person in group takes turns as directed by the teacher.

Fist of Fire –Pupils use hands to indicate understanding. Fingers indicate level of understanding.

Clenched fist – no understanding
Five fingers – full understanding.

Post It – Out the Door – Each pupil is given a post-it.Can only leave once post-it is completed with

Answers to any question
3 things they have learned
How they felt about lesson

Numbered Heads Together

Groups work out answers to questions and every member must know answer if asked.
• Each member of group must check that every other member of group knows the answer.

Speed Dating – Revision technique or questioning

• 2 rows of seats face to face
• On one row of seats there is a card with topic/ description or explanation, faced down.
• Teacher sets a time limit and starts the pupils.
• Other pupil without card has to guess topic from description or answer questions on card.
• Pupils move on a seat.

Two Stars and a Wish – Evaluating/ feedback

• Do activity – then evaluate yourself or others
• Feedback on performance by teacher or pupils and their peers
• Focus on 2 stars– 2 things that were good in their work (strengths)
• A wish – an area for future development

Rally Table –Questioning or a revision technique

• Question/ topic written at top of each page
• Pages put on separate tables
• Answers completed by groups or individuals
• Answers written at the bottom of the page, then bottom folded over to cover answer
• Groups/ individuals move tables

What am I?- Revision technique, Groups or Pairs

• Pupils given a topic, have to write down 3 clues that would help their partner/ group guess what the topic is
• Pupil reads out 1st clue. If someone gets it correct = 3 points. 2nd clue = 2 points, 3rd clue = 1 point
• Pupils swap, partner/ next person reads clues

Expert Jigsaw

• Form 3 groups (E.G.3)
• 3 pieces of information
• Individuals from groups become experts of each piece of info
• Teach group about your info
• Teacher to quiz each group to assess

Thumbs Up – To check for understanding

• Ask the class to put their thumb up accordingly
• Thumb up = yes I understand or know/ fully
• Thumb horizontal – not sure need a little help
• Thumb down – I don’t know, haven’t got a clue

No Hands Up – Form of questioning

1. Class asked not to put hand up
2. A question is asked by teacher
3. Given thinking time or discussion time
4. Teacher selects a pupil to answer

Corners – Answering or evaluation

1. A choice is allocated to each corner e.g. put choices on smart-board
2. Teacher asks a question e.g. how did you feel about a unit of work?
3. Pupils stand in a chosen corner
4. Pupils asked to justify choices

Gallery Walk

1. Students work in a group to identify key ideas/ info on a topic and present in a poster
2. Limited words can focus students
3. In each group students are then numbered. They form groups so there is one person from each original group. (e.g. – all number 1’s together)
4. The posters are displayed. Groups rotate and each person explains their group poster

Think Pair Share

1. Students given a short amount of time to respond to a task/ question
2. Students given a short amount of time to talk to a partner about their ideas
3. Students share their ideas with the whole class

Story Triangle Listeners Storytellers

1. Students form triangles
2. Students in the middle listen and give feedback
3. Students on the outside explain learning or share an idea
4. after feedback storyteller rotates, (the storyteller can only say thank you for the feedback)

Fan and Pick

1. Prepare cards with key words on one side and definitions on the other
2. Organise students into pairs or groups
3. One member of the group fans the cards for students to pick one
4. Student who picks the card needs to give the definition or word which matches


1. Students are split in to two teams. The whiteboard is also split into two.
2. The class is given a challenge
3. Each team has a pen. A team member runs up and writes their idea. The pen is then passed to the next team member
4. Ideas are totalled at the end. Double answers are scored out

Traffic Lights

Assessment tool:
Red, Amber, Green

check for understanding
quick evaluation & learning
signal if you need help from teacher