How To Use the Cooperative Learning “Carousel” Strategy

HOW TO USE CAROUSEL STRATEGYCarousel is a cooperative learning strategy that involves movement, discussion, and reflection. This is similar to one of my favorite activities, the Gallery Walk, but is slightly different. In a Gallery Walk, students typically work on their own, moving around the room to complete a series of tasks. In a carousel, students work in small groups and move from station to station, discussing each task as they go. Carousel is a great way to incorporate kinesthetic learning into your teaching, and give students a much needed break from sitting in their chairs. It is also a great way to encourage group work, as students must discuss and reflect together to answer each question.

 

How can I use carousel in the classroom?

Carousel is a great cooperative learning activity for reinforcing knowledge and skills AFTER learning. It can also be used at the very beginning of a unit or lesson to activate prior knowledge. For example, if you are teaching a unit on Sound, you might want to see what students already know about Sound. Instead of using a KWL chart or something similar, Carousel is a great option.

 

How does carousel work?

Generally the teacher creates about 5-7 numbered “stations” around the classroom. Each station consists of a piece of chart paper with a question written on the top. For example, if you are doing this as an activation strategy before your Sound unit, some questions might be, “What do you know about how sound is made?” or “What are some different sounds that you hear every day?” The idea is to get students thinking about the subject matter that they are about to learn.

Students are divided into small groups. The number of students in each group may depend on the number of stations that you have. I like to limit groups to about 3-4 students.

Each group begins at a different station. The teacher sets a timer, and students stay at each station for that set period of time. I like to limit this to about 1-2 minutes at each station. I find that the brisk pace keeps students motivated. I would rather them not have enough time to put all of their thoughts down, rather than having too much time – that is when classroom management issues arise!

During the time that students are at each station, they read the question, skim over any previous answers by other groups, and then add their own ideas to the paper. When the timer goes off, they move to the next station.

When the groups have visited each station, there is a short discussion to de-brief. Try not to drag this out. With younger students you may want to choose a couple of points to highlight and discuss from each paper, rather than reading every single thing that was written.

 

What do I need to keep in mind before and during the carousel activity?

  • How many students will you have in each group? Sometimes too many students can cause issues, as there is not enough for each person to do. In my opinion, three people is always a nice number.
  • What is your purpose? Is your purpose to reinforce? Assess? Activate prior knowledge? This will affect the types of questions that you ask.
  • How will students know where to go next? Are the stations labelled? Do they travel in a predictable way around the classroom?
  • How much time do students need? If you notice that students are getting off-task, it probably means that you are giving them too much time at each station.
  • How will you decide who does the writing? Is there a designated student in each group? Will they carry the marker with them or will you leave a marker at each station?

8 Comments

  • What a great idea! I’ve done this before but never could think of a name for it. Thank you for sharing. I can’t wait to start with the unit on Life Cycles.

    Reply
  • I use this in my room a lot during the year. I set these up around the perimeter of the room and we always go clockwise around the room. Sometimes I use a timer to determine the time to switch. Other times I watch the groups to see how they are progressing. I agree with too much time being an invitation to get off task. My second grade classes always seem to have K-3 writing abilities. I often tell the students they can write a sentence or draw a picture to convey their understanding. Sometimes the pictures create great group discussions when we meet back together whole group.

    Reply
  • Can’t wait to try Carousel strategy! My kiddos really need to be able to move!

    Reply
  • I use this regularly in my classroom – it works really well with any age group. Just a note, if you allocate a coloured marker to each group, you can see after which group of students came up with each idea/information. I also do this if I want to check on specific students – I allocate a colour to each student – this way I can really check who is doing what, and it assists with accountability for students as they know that I know who has what colour!!!

    Reply
  • I’ve been wanting to find an appropriate learning activity. I’m glad you talked about how you should look at how many students you will have in each group. I’m going to have to look for a good appropriate learning activity and see what we can find!

    Reply
  • I have never used this before. I had not even seen this until an inservice meeting at the beginning of school this year. I have done it in workshops before, but never heard it called this.

    Reply

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