Techniques to Open a Lesson

Articles & Research

The Artist's Window (I Can See Through My Partner's Eyes)

This cooperative activity requires that students rely on one another to analyze and evaluate a work of art or other image. This methodology promotes student speaking and listening skills, deep analysis and attention to detail, as well as student collaboration.


  • Choose an image or series of images. Be prepared to present each on a screen or SmartBoard.
  • Create classroom partners.
  • Align your classroom desks/tables so that half of the students are facing the screen and the other half have their backs to the screen. Label the students facing the screen as the A group and the ones with their backs to the screen the B group.
  • Desks/tables should be formatted in a manner which allows one student in each group to move to the right after partners have switched seats.

Class Procedure:

  • Once students are seated properly, teacher instructs students to examine each image closely, paying attention to detail and nuance. Teachers may asks students to search for disciplinary specific detail (TAG). Students facing the screen should be instructed to whisper details about the image to his/her partner. Students with back to the screen must not speak for the first thirty seconds. Teachers may customize to meet their needs, but for the second thirty seconds, students facing away from the screen may ask questions requiring only a yes/no answer.
  • At the conclusion of one-minute, teachers will ask the students with backs to the screen to describe what they think is presented on screen. Multiple students in the room should be given the opportunity to piece the image together.
  • Once a thorough description has been shared, all students are asked to look at the image. Partners are asked to thank their "eyes" for their descriptive skills.
  • Teachers may now model ways to annotate imagery and highlight features that may not have been discussed by students.
  • It is critical that teachers and students take a moment to discuss higher level questions. As many details students will provide will be literal, teachers must model for students the analysis of imagery in reference to theme and artist's purpose.

Switching Roles

  • Once the first image is fully reviewed, students should be given the opportunity to switch roles. The student who was the presenter should now switch with the student who was facing away from the screen.
  • The process outlined above should be followed.


  • If the lesson warrants additional images, teachers are encouraged to set up a rotation. Though the speed dating reference does not going over so well in a middle school classroom, students, after sitting in both partner seats, should be given the chance to work with additional partners.
  • Before presenting image 3, ask all group A students to move to the right. This will place them with a new partner. Go through the same procedures from above, with students flipping seats for image 4. Teachers may continue moving group A to the right after the analysis of image 4.

Four Corners

Designed to build stronger argumentative skills, Four Corners requires that students position themselves in one of four corners of the classroom based upon a statement.

The corners should be labeled:

  1. Agree
  2. Strongly Agree
  3. Disagree
  4. Strongly Disagree

This activity can be introduced at various time to serve multiple purposes. Four Corners can be used as a lesson/unit introduction to access prior knowledge. It may also serve as a review of a section of historical fiction or to challenge students to take a position on ethics in science.


  • Students are told that they will be presented with one or more statements during the lesson. Students will be given 15-30 seconds to consider their position. Students will then be asked to align themselves in one of four corners.
  • Once students are positioned, the teacher should then give each corner a short period to confer. If this is a text-based experience, students should be given more time to collect their evidence.
  • After evidence and small-group discussion is concluded, each of the four corners will present.
  • After each presentation, students should be given the opportunity to move to a new corner based upon the strength of the presentation.
  • Teachers are encouraged to develop a classroom rubric to assess student presentation, strength of evidence, and listening.

Inside the Circle, Outside the Circle

This cooperative construct provides for content development, promotes student-to-student speaking and listening and, with strong planning, fosters peer editing and revision.

Suggested Practice (DK Editorial)

Day # 1

Teacher assigns a reading or video selection for homework that captures important content. Students are required to review the reading/video and create a set of questions based upon Bloom's Taxonomy. These questions will be used on Day 2.

Day # 2

Teacher arranges students into two groups - A & B. Teacher assigns the A group to the Inside of the Circle and the B group to the Outside of the Circle. Teacher tells students that they will be working with a series of partners today. The A group will remain stationary for the duration of the activity. Students in the B group will move in a circle until "freeze" is announced by the teacher. (Some teachers use the cessation of music to signal a freeze.) Once students have frozen, they are to move to the nearest student in the A group. Once pairs are created, students must be given a set of period of time to review the student-created questions. After time expires, the teacher asks the B group to move again in a circular pattern. Once again, student pairs will be created when teacher "freezes" the movement or the music is stopped.


Teachers should not use Inside the Circle, Outside the Circle solely to review questions and answers. This cooperative construct can be incorporated for a variety or purposes and support multiple objectives.

Inside the Circle, Outside the Circle - Overview

Tips with Video


Taboo Example

* This can be edited

Walk the Line

Gallery Walk

Oprah's Best Things...Found Under Your Seat

Write Around Activity

Clock Partners

It's In the News

Graffiti Board/Padlet

From a Mess to a Model

I Have, Who Has?

Approval Meter/Approval Matrix

The Fish Tank

True/False & Yes/No Sticks

A/B Debate

Music to Match the Lesson's Theme

Compelling Questions


Other Resources