A Strategy for the Active Classroom


Fan-N-Pick is a simple strategy that can be used in the classroom to foster collaboration and interaction between students. The focus of this strategy can be to review a concept, discuss an issue, demonstrate understanding of content, or share information about a topic. Fan-N-Pick is a strategy (or structure) by Dr. Spencer Kagan who has been responsible for the development of over 200 instructional strategies for classroom use. Kagan strategies work to increase student engagement through active participation, use of movement through the classroom, cooperation and student interaction, (Kagan, 2009). Kagan structures differ from traditional instruction in that they are designed to assure multiple, or all students, are participating rather than only allowing one student to respond at a time. Many of the strategies also put the responsibility for acquiring information or knowledge on the student, rather than relying on teacher-directed instruction. This shift of responsibility fosters student engagement as students must be active and engaged in order to successfully complete the lesson.

Strategies like Fan-N-Pick also create opportunities for students to work collaboratively. Working in a group with other students is a skill that is not only necessary as students move through their education careers, but also through their careers in life. Students need to learn to work with others, solve disagreements and conflicts that may occur in a group work setting, and how to compromise and actively contribute to a group. These are all benefits that can be seen when using many of these strategies. Fan-N-Pick allows students to switch roles so that every group member takes a turn at each role. This assures that one team member does not dominate the group, and that team members cannot "hide" and let the other team members take over the work load.

Instructional Strategies benefit students in many ways including fostering collaboration and active engagement. For more information on instructional strategies or Kagan Structures visit the website To better understand how the structures compare to traditional instruction and the benefits of strategy instruction, visit this article: Kagan Structures: A Miracle of Engagement.


So how does Fan-N-Pick work? Its actually very simple. You need to start with a set of cards for each group of four students. These cards can be teacher created directly related to content (such as a review activity or questions related to a text or reading) or more general cards such as discussion questions, get-to-know you questions, or higher level thinking questions that can fit multiple content areas. You can also purchase sets of cards through the Kagan website. Students are divided into groups of four, then are numbered off student one through four (or any other creative system you may use). Student 1 fans out the cards, offers them to Student 2 and tells Student 2, "Pick a card, any card." Student 2 picks a card and reads the question or prompt to the group. Student 3 answers the question or responds to the prompt. Student 4 then paraphrases/repeats, checks, clarifies and praises the answer. Cards then rotate to the right and steps are repeated so that each person in the group has at least one chance at each role.

This strategy can be used across any content area. Students could practice problems for a math skill, practice basic facts, or demonstrate how to solve a problem for math content. For reading, students could respond to questions about a story or piece of literature. In social studies students can discuss civic issues or historical events using this strategy. Science content can be supported by discussing the information for class, reviewing content, sharing ideas and questioning scientific findings.

Here is an example of how this strategy could be used in a middle school science classroom:

Content topic: Volcanoes

Purpose: Review types of volcanoes, volcanic action and effects of volcanic eruptions on Earth's landscapes.

Materials: Question cards: each set of cards will have 12 question cards about the content from the volcano unit.

Strategy implementation: Students are divided into groups of four using classroom sorting or partner pick strategy. Students will number off as student 1, student 2, student 3 and student 4. Once order has been determined, the game is on!

  • Student 1: take cards and fan them out. Offer cards to student 2 and say "Pick a card, any card."
  • Student 2: read the card to the group
  • Student 3: answer the question on the card
  • Student 4: Paraphrase or restate the answer given by student 3, clarify or check the answer, praise student for the answer given.

Round 2, rotate the cards to the right, Student 2 now offers cards to Student 3 and repeats the steps. Play continues until all cards have been answered.


  • Have students create question cards as part of activity, then shuffle the cards together.
  • Following activity: students blog response to the activity, discuss the successess and improvements to be made for the next round
  • Students video Fan-N-Pick and post on class website as an example for future groups completing the activity

It's Your Turn!

So, now that you have seen an example of this quick and easy strategy, how might you implement this in your classroom? What content area can you see this fitting? How would you use the Fan-N-Pick strategy? Please let me know how you might use this with your students by posting in the comment box in the blog under the post Fan-N-Pick. Be sure to include any materials you might find useful or links to other resources you would use! Thanks for playing!


Fan and Pick Kagan Structure. Teacher Tube. Retrieved on July 25, 2015 from

Kagan, S. (2009). Kagan structures: A miracle of active engagement. San Clemente, CA: Kagan Publishing. Kagan Online Magazine, Fall/Winter 2009.

Kagan, S. (2008). Kagan structures simply put. Kagan Online Magazine, Summer 2008. Retrieved on July 25, 2015 from