Spotlight on Strategies

Act it Out

Lights, Camera, Act it Out!

Act it Out is a strategy that is designed to assist students with cognitive processing of new content, but it can also be used to solve problems. The Act it Out strategy can be used at any age level, ability level, and content area. It can be difficult for students to gain a concrete understanding of an abstract problem or concept. Act it Out assists students who struggle visualizing because manipulatives and/or symbols can be utilized to serve as a representation for the concept or procedure. For math problems, these concrete materials are valuable for students to see, track, and chart the process for reaching a solution.

In addition, this strategy allows students to read or view new content and reflect on their comprehension by using physical movements to demonstrate their understanding. According to research conducted by Marzano, nonlinguistic representations are beneficial for students. "Creating a nonlinguistic representation helps students deepen their understanding because it requires them to think about the content in new ways. Asking students to explain their representation promotes even greater understanding." (Marzano, n.d.).

The following link provides an explanation for how you might utilize Act it Out in Math and Vocabulary.

See it in Action!

As a way to reinforce the various parts of a water cycle, after presenting new vocabulary terms students and having them research, students prepare a nonlinguistic skit to present in front of the class.

The first step to the process is to present the new water cycle terms to students; heat, condensation, precipitation, run-off, collection, evaporation, and transpiration. Begin by showing the students a visual for how all of the parts are connected.

Divide your students into small groupings, if you do not already have these groupings established. Handout one vocabulary term to each group. This can be done by writing it on an index card; it will be used during their acts.

In advance, prepare Symbaloo icons with valid links that students can visit to collect research. As groups work, they can record information on the back of their index card to share out with the whole group.

As students finish researching, they determine how the group can act out their vocabulary term. The acts should be nonverbal.

When all students are finished researching and preparing an act, they share out to the group what they've learned about the vocabulary term.

Students position themselves into an order that represents the terms into the sequential order in which they happen. One at a time, groups act out their part. Each part should connect with the act prior to and following their assigned term. For example, if the group is assigned run-off, their skit should follow precipitation and proceed collection. Groupings often work together to link their acts. One example of this would be precipitation acting like they are fall to the ground, run-off rolls across the floor, and roll into the collection group as these students fall down and become collection.

Here is a photograph of my fourth graders enjoying the Act it Out strategy:

Big image

The Challenge!

Your next step is to decide on an abstract concept that is not easily understood by your students. As an introduction, find or create a video, passage, problem, or visual that you can present to students. Many times this works best as part of a jigsaw activity; students take one part of the whole to bring back to the group and teach.

Next, decide how you will allow your students to interact with the information. Allow your students to take ownership for their own learning. How will your students research and record their information? In what ways will you be able to see and ensure student learning is occurring? Scaffold students to extend their thinking by observing the notes they're taking. Present open-ended questions to students in their small groupings that begin with why or how.

Think about and plan the way your students will demonstrate their understanding. As you utilize the Act it Out strategy, you will need to plan how the students will present their research or solution based on a way that links the concepts together, especially for those jigsaw concepts.

* B O N U S *

In what way will you add your own digital tools into the activity? Students will certainly want to use digital tools and media to add their own touch of creativity. For instance, your students may want to create a storyboard, record their acts, upload, and then present them using iMovie or similar tools. Additionally, your students might be intrigued to take notes via digital tools, so how will you provide this opportunity?

Citations and Credits

Classroom Instruction that Works: Research-based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement, by Robert Marzano (2001)

Lights. [Web Image]. Retrieved from

Marzano, R. J. (n.d.). The Art and Science of Teaching / Representing Knowledge Nonlinguistically. Retrieved February 09, 2016, from

McGuire, T. (2013, November 24). Dramatic Vocabulary Part1. Retrieved February 09, 2016, from

Pearson Prentice Hall Mathematics Video. (n.d.). Retrieved February 09, 2016, from

Symbaloo. (n.d.). Retrieved February 09, 2016, from

The Water Cycle for Schools and Students: Advanced students. (n.d.). Retrieved February 09, 2016, from