Three Participatory Learning Activities for Lower Order Thinking Skills (3 LOTS PLAs)

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

In the TOP 10 PARTICIPATORY LEARNING ACTIVITIES (PLAs) series, I described, in brief, ten configurable and reusable PLAs that you can employ in your practice. Their flexibility in design makes all of them ideal for your expanding toolbox to offer more active learning in your courses, and can also be adapted easily to the online environment.

This post, and another earlier this month, are two more supplemental blog posts, each containing an additional three PLAs that focus more on the Bloom’s Taxonomy (BT) (Bloom, 1956; Anderson & Krathwohl, 2001) distinction between the higher order thinking skills (HOTS – apply, analyse, evaluate, create) and the lower order thinking skills (LOTS – remember, understand). Remember to keep in mind that moving from HOTS to LOTS is a continuum, as represented by the vertical arrow as lever moving up and down as appropriate. Let’s have a look today at three HOTS PLAs.

LOTS 1. Hot Seat

Hot seat puts the pressure on a single learner, yet still involves the rest of the class. If you can imagine this activity in a physical classroom, one student is chosen to sit in the Hot Seat in the center of the classroom, surrounded by classmates. Classmates’ questions and queries are directed to the Hot Seat occupant, who must answer in whatever configuration you decide. Perhaps you are reviewing concepts, giving definitions,  helping to recall information, guessing new vocabulary words related to the topic. The point is, only the person in the hot seat is allowed to give the  answer, while everyone else is tasked with asking the questions. While this sounds stressful for the person in the Hot Seat, it’s actually more fun and involving than you might initially think.

There are many applications. This YouTube video explains using Hot Seat For teaching English as a Second Language,  but what they describe can easily be adapted for most subjects where review of materials and concepts becomes essential.

Resource - PLAs4HOTSnLOTS.004

LOTS 2. The Talking Stick


In many Native American cultures in the Northwestern United States and Western Canada, the Talking Stick is used to control a conversation. Only the person holding the stick may speak. 

This can be recreated in a group to ensure that everyone gets a chance to say something, and that the conversation is done one person at a time. This is a good way to encourage self-regulatory learning to practice the leadership skill of deep listening.

In an online environment, all group members must adhere to giving all other members a chance to speak uninterrupted when discussing new ideas, recalling information, brainstorming  solutions to problems posed, and many other scenarios that you can devise.Resource - PLAs4HOTSnLOTS.005

HOTS 3. Wordmap


Kahoot! has a tool called “Open-Ended Question” that automatically generates a “word map” of whatever game participants’ input. The most frequent single words appear larger than the other words in the generated product.

The applications for this are many, but the generated map leaves an instant visual to varied responses from students. Words input can be in response to any question that requires memory  recall, so the tool in Kahoot! is ideal for quick review of terms, definitions, or correct spelling, just to name a few of the simpler applications.

Wordle is a web-based solution, and has options to download dedicated software for MacOS and Windows OS.


Resource - PLAs4HOTSnLOTS.006


This is a supplemental installment, in two additional parts, to the Top Ten Participatory Learning Activities (PLAs) Series, published in the Winter 2019-2020 term. Each week, Dr. Larry Davies described 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 contained suggestions for one or more online tools you can use with the PLA.

Previous blogs in this series include:


Anderson, L. W., & Krathwohl, D. R. (2001). A taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing: A revision of Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives. New York: Longman.

Bloom, B. S. (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals. New York: Longman.

De Bono, E. (1982). Plus, Minus, Interesting: Weighing the Pros and Cons of a Decision, De Bono’s Thinking Course.


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