By Chris Bourret

Total Participant Techniques (TPTs), are ways to engage all your students at the same time with the subject matter you are teaching. According to William and Persida Himmele, (2014), experts in these techniques, TPTs help create a socially integrated classroom community, build confidence in students, and improve retention of materials. TPTs can turn what might be a routine or even boring activity into something interactive and exciting. TPTs also help teachers by acting as ongoing formative assessments of student learning.

One TPT I love to use that incorporates technology is a “Jeopardy” PowerPoint game that includes a technique called “Whiteboard Hold Up.” I use this to review grammar points in my ESL class before a quiz or test. I also use it to review material in content classes – sometimes to review the material previously covered a day or week earlier.  I use a free downloadable PowerPoint file that resembles the famous TV game Jeopardy. This file contains categories which you can fill in as a teacher. Here are some Grammar categories I created for a review before a midterm exam:

Grammar categories

I don’t use the “Answer as a Question” technique, like they do on the show, which can be confusing for students if they have never seen it. Instead, I create fill-ins, true-false questions, multiple choice items, etc. Examples for the categories are below. The first number shows which column the question is in and the second shows the point value of that item.

Noun Plurals 1-10 points

Question 3-10

Noun Plurals 1-50 points

Question 3-50

The trick to making the items for the template is to rank them from what you think are least difficult to most difficult, so that the points students get at the higher point values are truly earned. I tried to do that in the categories above, with the 50 point questions hopefully more difficult than the 10 point questions. For each item, there is an answer slide where you input the correct answers.

When the PowerPoint is ready for use, I project it onto the screen, and I break the class into either pairs or groups of 3, depending on the size of the class. I then give each group a mini-whiteboard and marker, and have these new teams choose a team name, which I put on the big class whiteboard. Then, I’ll have one group start the game by picking a category and a point value item, from 10 to 50 points in each category. To make the activity a TPT, I next show the item to be answered on the screen and tell each group they have a certain number of seconds to decide in their group what the answer is, and have one member of the team write down the answer. When I exclaim “Show me!” at the end of the time allowed, all groups must show their boards at the same time. This is the Whiteboard Hold-Up, and by having all students contribute to their group’s answer and then making all groups show responses at the same time, the technique makes the students more involved than by writing answers on a worksheet individually.

I mark down quickly on a cheat sheet who answered correctly and who didn’t, then I show the answer on the screen, and give points on the big board to all the groups that got the correct answer, usually to the response of cheers or cries of disbelief. The next group adjacent to the first then gets to pick a category and value of their choice, and we play again.

I also ask that each group’s mini-whiteboard recorder change hands, so that every member gets multiple chances to either write down the answer or give input to the person transcribing the response. When the Jeopardy template is depleted of items, the dust clears and winner/s are declared. It’s a good idea to give something as a surprise reward for the winning team/s (and of course consolation prizes to the losers).

Mini whiteboard, filled in with a student's answer

Mini whiteboard filled in with students’ answer.

It may not seem like much, but this activity, by being a TPT, involves each member of a group by bringing out true collaboration among students in a fun environment. They are connected to each problem in a deeper way than if it was just written down on a worksheet or even online quiz. It also gives the teacher a nice informal assessment of who has a good grasp on the material, who does not , and if any particular points or information needs to be readdressed in class. Showing all the boards at the same time also avoids singling out individuals who may not show as much expertise as their colleagues – who usually are too busy intensely concentrating on getting answers right and seeing if they have more points than other groups in this fast paced environment.

It is amazing to see how a little bit of technology goes a long way to making more ordinary or mundane material come to life. I found out that adult learners love games just as much as kids, and having the display of the template on the screen is such a great focus to have for playing a game. In fact, this activity is so popular with my learners, that they request I make a “Jeopardy” game each time we review material before an exam. Students also ask to have the PowerPoint emailed to them so they can review it at home, so this template also makes a nice study guide for them.

Though making this activity takes some legwork on the part of the teacher, thinking up items and ranking them from least challenging to most challenging, the benefits of using this activity are easily apparent. The active participation and cognitive engagement in the topic is increased exponentially, thanks to only a PowerPoint template, small whiteboards, a big whiteboard or chart paper, and your imagination. What’s more, this activity is versatile enough to work for math, history, science, language arts, or just about anything you teach. If you are interested in doing this activity, remember the templates can be found free online, the whiteboards can be had for $1 apiece at a dollar store, and then the rest is up to you. Just plug in the material to make your game. Give it a try and I hope you and your students have fun with it!

To learn more about Total Participation Techniques, here is a Prezi done by John Siedman. It is an excellent review of the many positive uses of Total Participation Techniques. It reviews some of the main reasons for using TPT, such as creating a socially integrated classroom community, building confidence in students, and improving retention of materials. List of example techniques are included.


Himmele, William J & Persida Himmele. ELL School Success and Total Participation TechniquesThe RI-TELLER. Spring 2014. Rhode Island Teachers for English Language Learning.

Christopher Bourret is a Lead Teacher/Program Coordinator with Rhode Island Family Literacy Initiative (RIFLI). Chris has taught for over two decades in higher education institutions and adult education programs, including five years in Poland for US Peace Corps. He helped pilot the Words2Learn project, which developed an app that accelerates learning of academic and health career related vocabulary for adults preparing to enter post-secondary education and technical training. Chris serves as Vice President for the Coordinating Council for Rhode Island Teachers of English Language Learners (RITELL).

Share This