Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Instructional Strategy Cafe

Lindsay Hawkins, Lindsay Williams | Published: September 16th, 2020 by K20 Center


In this session, participants will be given a menu of instructional strategies to "taste test." Each of these strategies is research-based and supports components of authenticity. Once strategies have been chosen, the session will be built around a three-course meal of participants' chosen strategies. Each strategy option on the menu is accessible to any grade level and adaptable to any content area. Participants will leave with hands-on tools that they can implement immediately in any class.

Essential Questions

  • How do instructional strategies enhance student learning?

  • How do instructional strategies fulfill components of authenticity?

Learning Goals

  • Participants will explore and identify how authentic instructional strategies presented can be used for engaging, formatively assessing, and extending students’ learning.

  • Participants will recognize authentic components within the instructional strategies.

Materials List

  • Presentation Slides (attached)

  • Instructional Strategies Cafe Menu (attached)

  • In 60 Seconds Infographic (attached)

  • Authentic Learning and Teaching Rubric (attached)

  • Instructional Strategy Note Sheet (attached)

  • Strategy Harvest Note Sheet (attached)

  • Markers, pens, and pencils

  • Sticky notes

  • Poster paper (with one of six "Menu" choices as heading)

  • Scratch paper


Welcome participants, and introduce yourself and the session using the attached Presentation Slides.

Display slide 2 to share the session objectives with participants. This will provide a road map of where you will go together during the session and will let participants know what to expect.

Transition to slide 3 and pass out the attached Instructional Strategies Cafe Menu. Ask participants to look through the menu and choose three instructional strategies they would like to explore further.

Once participants have selected three instructional strategies, ask them to engage in a Sticky Bar activity by taking one sticky note and placing it on the Sticky Bar poster paper, creating columns above or below the name of the strategy they would like to explore further. You will present and use the three strategies that the majority of the group chose.

Inform participants that several new strategies will be introduced to them throughout the session. These strategies are tools used to support and guide higher-order thinking in an authentic way. Make sure each participant has a copy of the attached Instructional Strategy Note Sheet, and encourage participants to use it to jot down their ideas for personalizing a strategy to be used as an instructional tool in their classrooms. Before breaks and after the strategies have been modeled, the presentation will allow time for participants to reflect on how to use these strategies.


Strategy Harvest strategy: Show slide 6. Present the problem on the slide and instruct participants to solve the problem and record their strategy on the attached Strategy Harvest Note Sheet, found either on the table or in their folder. After a couple minutes, tell everyone to find an elbow partner and share the strategy they used. Participants will take turns sharing and recording the new strategies on their note sheets, "harvesting" the strategies others used. Participants will continue to find a new partner one or two more times and record the new strategies shared each time. Bring the group back together and have a few participants share out either their own strategy or a new one they learned and might use in the future.

Strike Out strategy: Show the slide 7. Have participants get into groups of four with proximity partners. Ask the question, "What skills do you need for college readiness?" Instruct the participants to list as many skills as they can in their small groups. Then, pass papers to the group on their right. Based on the answers given, strike out one item that does not meet the criteria or that is the least important. Participants will continue to pass papers to the right, and groups will continue to mark off one item from the list until only the most important skills remain. Allow groups time to share out the skills that are remaining on their lists.

Tweet Up strategy: Show slides 8–9. Participants will write an opinion statement about the concept presented in the infographic. It must contain fewer than 140 characters and include a hashtag. Read the example from the slide: Students today must learn how to move beyond basic comprehension. #CriticalThinking

Move to the next slide and identify the infographic "In 60 Seconds" by GO-Globe, located either in participants’ folders or on the table. Participants will use this infographic to write their tweets and share them with the whole group.

Create the Problem strategy: Show slides 10–11. Present this instructional strategy, letting participants know that they are going to use the information on the next slide to create a problem, in context, that would result in the given solution.

Move to the next slide with the graph.

3-2-1 strategy: Show slide 12. Introduce this slide as the Engage portion of a lesson that could be used when teaching about the Dust Bowl. Inform participants that they are using the 3-2-1 strategy with a picture deconstruction. Ask participants to write down three things they notice about the picture, two things they can infer based on their prior knowledge of the Dust Bowl, and one question they have about this picture.

Synectics strategy: Show slide 13. Explain that this is a science strategy, but it can be adapted to any content area. It is similar to making a simile or metaphor in Language Arts—but it uses things you wouldn't normally compare and explains the connection between the two objects or ideas.

Use the example on the slide for participants to explore: A cell is like a _________ because ___________________. Ask participants: Is it most like a shopping mall, a bowl of gelatin, a brick wall, or an iPod?

Participants will choose one of the four answer choices and then write an explanation of why a cell and the chosen object are most alike. After participants have written their explanations, have them share out what they wrote.


Show slide 14.

Now that three instructional strategies have been presented, have participants find someone in the room they haven't talked to yet and share one idea of how they would use each strategy to enhance student learning and achievement in their classrooms. Have partners share out each other's ideas. Repeat this process two or three times.


Show slide 15. Ask the group: Which of these four components of authentic teaching do you see represented in the use of these three instructional strategies?

Use the attached Authentic Learning and Teaching Rubric to support participants’ answers.

After the discussion of authenticity and authentic teaching, give participants time to fill out the Instructional Strategy Note Sheet. Explain that the note sheet provides an opportunity for participants to dig deeper and individually reflect on how they might use the strategies in their own classrooms.


Go to slide 16. As an Exit Ticket at the end of the session, ask each participant to use a sticky note to explain how they will use one strategy they learned about in their own classroom by the end of the week.

Have participants briefly explain (on the sticky) how they will implement the strategy in their classrooms. Participants should post their sticky notes on the wall or poster paper for all participants to see as they leave the session.

Research Rationale

Instructional strategies engage and provide opportunities for students to make connections to new information using their prior knowledge as a foundation. They make thinking visible to themselves, peers, and teachers (Keeley& Tobey, 2011, p. 171). Teachers can use instructional strategies to gain an idea of what the students know and need to learn. By doing this, they can target instruction and provide opportunities to build on students' prior knowledge. Instructional strategies can be used as a formative assessment, quickly assessing the students' understanding and providing teachers with a guide to develop further instruction and support as needed, and they can help students identify and monitor their own learning throughout lessons and units. Instructional strategies create an authentic learning and teaching environment for all students.