August 20, 2014

Pass the Plate Brainstorming Activity

Today in history, we did a fun brainstorming activity to clear out those cobwebs and recall all the information we already know about the subjects we'll be studying this year in an activity called Pass the Plate.

For each class, I had a set of paper plates labeled as follows:
  • Early Humans
  • Mesopotamia
  • India
  • China
  • Greece
  • Rome
  • Middle Ages
  • Egypt
Students formed their own small groups of 3-4 students and chose a special flair pen from my stash. I then gave them three minutes to brainstorm and record their thinking directly on the paper plates. At the end of three minutes, I instructed them to "Pass the Plate" to the next group, and then the brainstorming continued for the next topic until the plates were back with the starting groups.

Obviously, students will know much more about topics like Greece than Mesopotamia, whose plates were looking pretty sad at the end of this activity! But by the end, they were full of color and, more importantly, ideas... and that's what counts!

I have to say, some of the brainstorming I heard today was absolutely hilarious, and it was SO HARD not to respond! Did you know that early humans were mermaids and cannibals? Neither did I! And I'm afraid to think about what this says about our society that one of the first things written about China was Panda Express (Joel would be proud. He loves that place!). 

I should've taken pictures of the finished plates... maybe I'll remember to do that tomorrow!

At the end of the year, students will get back into groups and will have the opportunity to Pass the Plates again. Except this time, they will be using academic vocabulary and recalling facts they learned in class rather than stereotypes and misconceptions. 


  1. Such a fun idea! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Love, love, love this idea! I can definitely use this with my 4th graders.

  3. Love this idea! A great pre-assessment to see what students know at the beginning of the year!