Upper Elementary Engagement Strategies

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Engagement Strategies, 3rd-5th


The following strategies could be used in an upper elementary classroom to increase engagement in literacy activities. Teachers should use their wisdom in knowing when and how often to employ these various strategies.


Strategy  Description  
ACE Strategy 

Students demonstrate how they know or can solve response items. They are required to Answer, Cite textual evidence, and Explain (or expand). View this 3 minute YouTube video for a quick demonstration.  

Collaborative Poster 

Students work in groups to create a collaborative poster with each student using a different color marker. The poster includes an image, a quote, and a summary in response to text, a speaker, or digital media, etc. This strategy increases collaborative conversation and student participation and accountability.

Concept Check Questioning 

Teachers can use the Concept Check Questioning strategy as they are introducing new vocabulary or concepts during instruction. 

Elevator Speeches 

Elevator speeches can be used to refine students’ understanding of vocabulary, concepts, content, and/or processes. Pair students up with partners. They have 30 seconds to deliver information to their partners. After 30 seconds, the students switch roles. Have a few share out. Then have students find a new partner. They have 30 seconds to deliver their refined understanding to their partners. After 30 seconds, the students switch roles once more.

Find Your Match 

Give each student in the class a card and then have them find the other student with the matching card. Students can do this with many topics including antonyms/synonyms, words/definitions, problem/solution, genres/definitions, and opinions/reasons.

Four Corners 

Four corners is a strategy that encourages student discourse. Place four signs in various corners of the classroom. Label these with four characters from a recent story, parts of the book (beginning, middle, end, and freebie-character, setting, event), books of a series, informational topics (e.g., habitat, diet, type, interesting fact, etc.). Ask students to choose a corner that is their favorite or that they feel like an “expert” in. The four corners can also signify strongly agree, agree, disagree, and strongly disagree. Once students have selected their corners, give them a few minutes to share with their corner group their reasons for choosing as a favorite or expert information. Share out as large group. Students can also organize information to share with the class as a group.

Frayer Model 

Use a version of the Frayer Model to create class anchor charts with students of new and interesting words. The middle of the diagram will be the word with the four corners including a student-friendly definition, a picture or visual representation of the word, an example (synonym) or non-example (antonym).

Gallery Walk 

Students walk throughout the classroom sharing thoughts and having collaborative conversations in response to prompts or questions provided by the teacher.  Visual aids such as posters, writing, and charts can be used as talking points. Watch this short video of the Gallery Walk strategy. 

GIST Statements 

Students summarize information in 20 words or less. To make it more difficult, they would summarize using exactly 20 words. Get a further explanation at ReadWriteThink, or download the template. 

Give Me Five! Questioning Strategy 

Students understand that readers continually ask questions while reading. The Give Me Five! Questioning Strategy helps students ask five critical questions using a graphic organizer.  

I Notice, I Wonder 

Using the sentence stems “I notice…” and/or “I wonder…” , students participate in class discussions and/or provide feedback to peers. For example, “I noticed that you used the word big a lot. I wonder if there are more interesting words that you could use.” 


The teacher breaks a text down into different sections (like a puzzle).  Each student or group of students are responsible for becoming experts on their section. Each student/group of students share the most important points of their section. This strategy can be used to practice paraphrasing.


Students can play this online game with individual devices (phones). Teachers can create their own questions or search for created games by other teachers. 


This online collaborative hub allows users to post words and images. The teacher can pose a question for everyone to answer. Students can brainstorm together. Students can leave questions about a lesson for the teacher to answer.  


This strategy could be used for prewriting or review. Students focus on a topic/concept and write about it for 5 or 10 minutes without stopping. Students’ ideas are recorded in random fashion as they come into the students’ minds. Since the focus is on content and ideas, grammar and editing are disregarded during this activity. This activity could be repeated several times during the year in a variety of situations. 

Reciprocal Teaching 

This activity encourages students to assume the role of the teacher in small group reading sessions. The teacher explicitly models and shows students how to guide group discussions using four strategies: summarizing, question generating, clarifying, and predicting. The four students in the group each lead the group through the text using one of the four strategies. 

Word Clouds 

Using Mentimeter or Wordle, students respond to a question with a single word to create an instant word cloud. Teachers can use this as a formative assessment of their students’ understanding.


After the lesson, students complete a 3-2-1 over the covered material.

  • 3 - things I discovered
  • 2 - interesting things
  • 1 - question I still have  


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