Instructional Strategies

What is it? A learning strategy designed to bring out background knowledge

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What is it?

A learning strategy designed to bring out background knowledge about a topic. It is similar to Think-Pair-Share, but less structured. Students in pairs stream images and ideas about a topic. It is important that the instructor emphasize that the students use their ‘quiet voices’ during this time, as half of the class will be talking at the same time. 

How Does It Work?

1. The instructor introduces the Mindstreaming procedure to the students and then provides a topic, such as:  Why do you think people live in communities rather than living alone? Describe the entire process of driving a car from your house to the grocery store. Describe the idea that where you live affects how you live.

Students decide who will be Partner A and who will be Partner B.

Part 1: 20 seconds
2. Person A speaks with no interruptions, listing words associated with the concept or topic.

3. Person B listens.

Part 2: 20 seconds
4. The roles reverse with Person B speaks with no interruptions, listing other words and ideas associated with the topic or concept.

5. Person A listens.

6. Person A and B can then share what they heard during the class debrief phase.
Remember:  Activating a student’s background knowledge on a topic enhances their ability to learn new material about that topic.

Why use it?

This process gives both students a chance to process ideas just learned. It gives students the ideas and words to say in general class discussion by offering them an opportunity to gather their own thoughts and to listen to another student’s learning as well. Verbalizing in the Mindstreaming process gives students a chance to try out the words and ideas they learned before reporting to the whole class. If they do not have a total grasp of the concept, often hearing another student verbalize will give them a “leg up”.

Mini Mural

What is it?

Each group prepares a mini-mural depicting key ideas and events from a topic or unit of study and presents the mural to the class.

Note: Each group member must participate in the presentation in a substantive manner.
How Does It Work?


On a large sheet of paper (11x17 or larger) convey the most important information about your topic including:

  • Topic

  • What is it?

  • Who is/was involved?

  • What are important dates related to the topic? (include timeline)

  • What are the important places involved?

  • Why is this important?

  • Summary sentence

  • Explanation of the impact (What does this topic have to do with change?)

  • Names of group members

The mural must include:

  • at least one quote

  • an illustration

  • a symbolic border*

  • a timeline with at least three important dates related to the topic

  • a sentence summarizing the reading

  • a sentence explaining the impact of the change

* Symbolic border: pick a picture or symbol that is representative of the topic. Draw it around the edge of the mural in a pattern to form a border. Explain the significance of the symbol.


What is it?
Opinion-Proof is an application of column notes. It's designed to take the power of students' own opinions about their content and harness them as tools of learning. The basic idea is that an opinion can be put forward, but it should be a supported opinion, based on ideas, facts, or concepts found within the material being studied.

How Does It Work?
Two columns are set up for the basic Opinion-Proof chart. Label the left column "Opinion". Label the right column "Proof". Whatever opinion the teacher assigns or which students choose themselves is written in the left column. Then, support for that opinion is culled from the text, video, newspaper, story, or other source of content. Students can then use their Opinion-Proof charts to write a persuasive essay, compose an editorial suitable for a newspaper, or to prepare themselves for a classroom debate, among other things.

Why use it?

Opinion-Proof encourages thinking because students must read or otherwise take in information with a purpose – to prove a claim. It requires thinking at the analysis level.

An Example:




President Truman was justified in resorting to the use of the atomic bomb in the final days of World War II.

  • The Japanese government and military had committed to fight to the last man.

  • The alternative to atomic bombing was an invasion of Japan, which would have resulted in enormous numbers of casualties among U.S. troops.

  • The United States was in a race to develop atomic weapons and had no idea whether or if the Japanese were also developing their own weapons of mass destruction.

  • A continuation of the war indefinitely would cost untold thousands of military and civilian deaths on both sides of the fighting.

  • A continuation of the war indefinitely would continue to drain the resources of the United States and the other Allied Powers.

  • A continuation of the war indefinitely would further delay efforts to rebuild the war-torn nations.


Name: ___________________________________ Date: _______________________



People move to improve their lives.

The settlers faced may difficulties while trying to come to Texas.

Pick a Word

What is it?
A strategy where students select key words that are typically inferences, reflecting judgment, conclusions, and evaluations that move beyond the text.
How Does It Work?
Explain to students that meaning actually comes from merging the words of the passage with the ideas in our head.
For example: Either read this article aloud of make a transparency of the text.

Girl Scouts Help Our Cities Homeless
Local Girl Scouts in Portland have chosen to give up part of their Christmas Day celebrations with their families to serve breakfast and distribute warm clothes to homeless people in downtown Portland. More than 400 homeless people attended the breakfast, One parent said. “This helps our girls to see their world more realistically and builds a positive attitude about helping their community.”

Two-Word Strategy

Think about the article. Jot down two words that reflect your thinking. Be ready to tell why you chose the words.




I chose it because there are so many homeless people who need this.
I chose important because it is so important for everyone to help others.

Key Questions

  • How do you merge the words of the text and the ideas in your head?

  • Are there other ways to represent inferential thinking?

  • How might Two Word and Pick a Word help me understand when I am reading independently?

Why use it?

The Pick a Word and Two-Word Strategies both scaffold inferential reasoning, which is almost always represented on standardized tests. These strategies are quick, adjustable to various group sizes and work with any text.

In the Pick a Word Strategy, students choose only one word and write it down on a 3x5 card. On the back of the card, they write WHY they chose the word. The cards are passed around the group and students talk together about the words they are reading and how they relate to the text.

An Example:

Pick a Word
1. Jot down two words that reflect your

thinking about the passage.

_______________ ________________

2. Tell why you chose them.

3. Pick ONE word and write it on a 3x5 card.

On the back, tell why you chose it and

how it relates to the story. Meet with your

group to share your words and your

reasons for selecting them.

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