Total Participation Techniques -- Follow up Discussion

Hello colleagues, First of all I want to thank Becky Shiring and Sheryl Sherwin from Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School for presenting today's webinar "Total Participation Techniques for Cognitive Engagement in the ESL Classroom" -- TPTs. They shared a great many effective teaching ideas and strategies for engaging ALL students in higher order thinking. As a follow up to the video, Becky and Sheryl will be leading us in a discussion to deepen the conversation and involve our members. I'm looking forward to a rich and lively discussion this week!

Welcome, Becky and Sheryl!

Our presenters asked us to share which of the TPTs we'd like to implement in our own practice, so please do! Numbered heads has been a long time favorite of mine, but I would love to incorporate the use of the online spinner that was demonstrated. Becky and Sheryl, did you find the spinner online for free? Please post the link!

An activity I definitely want to incorporate in my teaching is the whiteboard splash. I can see using this with a wide range of topics, even with beginners. With the lowest level students, we could even just use photos and then have the students categorize the photos. For instance, after studying vocabulary for careers, the students could choose the jobs they like the most and the least to place on the whiteboard. They could then categorize the photos in a variety of ways: which jobs require English, which jobs require training, which jobs require working with others, which jobs require working alone, etc.

Please post your questions for Becky and Sheryl.

To get us started with questions, I'd like to ask Becky and Sheryl to highlight for us how TPTs are different compared to some of the activities we might already be doing in our classroom. The lesson examples you shared about the job interview tips was instructive. How do TPTs engage learners cognitively?

Here's an issue that came up during the webinar. How can TPTs be used with lower level students? While teachers working with intermediate and advanced learners are working hard to raise the bar to ensure these students are cognitively engaged, the challenge is different with students who are just starting to learn English. We'd love to hear your ideas for how to use TPTs with beginners and even with emergent readers, i.e., those who have had limited or interrupted formal schooling and who may also be learning to understand and speak English.

AELL  and Assessment CoP members, please add your ideas and suggestions for using TPTs with beginners, as well.

Click here to access Becky and Sheryl's PowerPoint. If you missed the webinar, it will be available on the LINCS YouTube channel soon. We'll post the link as soon as it's available.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

LINCS Moderator, AELL & Assessment Communities of Practice


Yesterday's presentation mentioned "sentence stems".  Could you give an example?  Thanks!

Hi All,

Thanks to everyone who participated in yesterday's webinar!  First of all, as promised, here are some of the templates referenced in the presentation yesterday.

Sheryl and I both work at a campus with upper level learners so the examples we shared highlighted this sort of environment.  But TPTs can easily be utilized in classrooms of all levels!  Susan's example of using pictures with chalkboard splash is a perfect example.  The book actually recommends categorizing or sorting as a TPT.  Give students a list of items or pictures and have them sort items into piles and create categories titles.  After items have been sorted, students explain why they chose the categories they did. Many of our teachers use quick writes in the classroom but a quick write could be turned into a quick draw.  For example, if you were teaching a certain topic such as places in the community, you could have students complete a quick draw illustrating something in their community.  Then they could turn to a partner and describe their pictures and elaborate on some aspect of the picture using the vocabulary and grammar they have learned.  In a class working with emergent readers, hold ups using a whiteboard or ABC cards would be very useful.  The teacher could say a word and students have to write or hold up the letter that word begins with.  Then students could turn and talk with a partner and name any other words they know that start with the same letter.  

Since TPTs rely so much on students explaining they why behind things, I think a key component of using these techniques with lower level learners is to provide them with the language to have classroom conversations.  Give students sentence stems to talk with their partners about the work they have done.  For example, with the quick draw example above, I might write on the board "This is the_______. In my community, the _______ is __________. "  I think the reason why TPTs are different that other techniques and the reason why so many of our teachers have gravitated towards them is because they are so easy to use.  They all contain the same key elements that ensure participation and higher order thinking.  With every TPT students have an initial response, a partner or small group response, and a whole class debrief.  These techniques are easy to integrate and become routine for the teacher and student.  There's also an inherent formative assessment piece built into techniques.  For example, hold ups not only provide the teacher with a quick snapshot of student understanding, but by asking students to explain why they chose a certain answer, they also allow deeper insight into students misconceptions.  

I'd love to hear other ideas for how TPTs can be used in lower levels and just thoughts in general about the techniques!

Becky Shiring

Professional Development Specialist, Carlos Rosario Public Charter School 

For those who were interested in using the spinner if you do the numbered heads TPT here is the URL:

Have fun!


Hello colleagues, If there is enough interest, we could look into the possibility of hosting a book group to read and discuss the Himmele's book Total Participation Techniques here on LINCS. The text is chock full of ideas for supporting ALL students to participate in activities that engage them in higher order thinking while further developing their English language skills. It's a short book, only 120 pages.

You can take a look at a couple of chapters in the book on the ASCD webpage.

One chapter is devoted to TPTs as formative assessment tool. This book would make for a great discussion. Let me know what you think!

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, AELL & Assessment CoPs

Hello Kathryn, Thanks for your interest in being part of an online book group on LINCS to read and discuss Total Participation Techniques by William and Persida Himmele. I agree with you that this would be a fun way to learn about some new teaching techniques. I'm hoping we'll get a few more members interested.

How about it folks? We could start this after the holidays if we get enough members who want to be part of the book group.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, AELL CoP