PLAs #10 – the “Empty Quarter”

by / Wednesday, 15 April 2020 / Published in Instruction, PLAs

Welcome to this series on the Top Ten Participatory Learning Activities (PLAs). Each week, I’ll describe PLAs that are effective to use online. Your use of these PLAs will foster better learning and higher motivation in your learners. Each PLA contains an illustration that contains four elements:

  • The name of the activity.
  • Which one of the four types the activity is (that’s the lightbulb), including,
    • Creative/critical thinking activity (inside the lightbulb, top left – the brain);
    • Small group conversational activity (bottom left – the speech bubbles);
    • Exit activity (given at the end of a lesson, unit, or project) (top right – the exit sign);
    • Timed activity (where learners are under pressure to complete it within minutes) (bottom left – the clock).
  • Whether it’s a Higher or Lower Order Thinking Skills Activity (HOTS or LOTS) (the HOTS/LOTS lever with “the pail”).
  • A suggested grouping to maximize the benefit of the activity (the circles arranged in many ways).

Also, the description will contain suggestions for one or more online tools you can use with the PLA.

#10 – The Empty Quarter (aka Muddiest Point)

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You might be familiar with “The Muddiest Point”, a reflective activity that you do with learners at the end of your class. In that activity, you ask learners to tell you what is not clear about what they’ve done for the day. The idea is that they are “stuck in the mud” on a certain point, and they’ll need your help later pulling out. “The Empty Quarter” is the same activity. I realized that learners in the UAE might not be too familiar with mud. They can, however, easily understand how being stranded in the Empty Quarter requires help from an outside intervention. Same activity, more geographically appropriate name.

Most important thing: Don’t end your class with “Any questions?”. Use the Empty Quarter activity instead, as you’ll get richer formative feedback on your teaching with it.

Name: The Empty Quarter

Activity type: Exit Activity

HOTS: This is a self-reflective activity, if nothing else, so you are asking your learners to analyze themselves.

Grouping: Best with ONES, but if you use it more often, try working in TRIOS for a little more reflective interaction.

Online tool: BbL Discussion, Nearpod’s “Open-ended question”, MSWord Teams document.

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