Getting students to talk about pages in a textbook

I try to get the students to talk through their understanding and ideas as much as possible. Some days I’m more successful than others.  It can be challenging to deal with long text book passages and making the info on those pages ‘stick’. The other day I tried a new activity, I call it Study Group Tabata. Tabata It worked well. It is roughly based on Ron Ritchhart’s MicroLab and allows students to talk through new information from a textbook, and then work towards answering a central question. It can be adapted to any subject.

  • Aim of the task:  To understand a complex issue (in this case Gleichschaltung in N*zi Germany) and then answer a central question (“How successful was Gleichschaltung?”)
  • How: Break down the complex issue into elements. (In my case, political parties, trade unions, regional states: This was based on pages and topics in the textbook)
    • Activity:
        • Groups of three.
        • Student 1 discusses subtopic 1 for 45 seconds.
        • Student 2 discusses same subtopic 1 for 45 seconds.
        • Student 3 summarises subtopic 1 and highlights the key issues and knowledge. Student 3 could be a note-taker too.

Positives about this activity:

  • Every student is forced to discuss each subtopic.
  • The summariser can synthesise the knowledge and concludes the topic.
  • A complex topic is broken down and students are engaged in thinking about all aspects of the issue.
  • It’s a quick and well timed activity. All up each subtopic took 2.5 minutes. The whole activity took 30  minutes, including the class discussion.
  • The activity prepared them well for answering the central question.
  • It’s a good way to deal with information from a textbook.


  • It can be repetitive, particularly on the smaller topics. It’s important to choose the right subtopics which give them enough to talk about.
  • 45 seconds can feel rushed.

Here is the PPT