Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Chain Notes

K20 Center | Published: September 16th, 2020 by K20 Center


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Chain Notes

This strategy provides students the opportunity to examine others' ideas and compare them to their own thinking.

Chain Notes


Students are sorted into groups to address a question or statement that is printed at the top of a page. The page is circulated from student to student within their groups. Each student responds with a new thought related to those already written on the page and then passes it on to the next student. More than one paper can be circulating at the same time, and the chain note can be passed around as students are engaged in other tasks.


  1. Present a question or statement.

  2. Sort students into groups or have them select classmates to group up with.

  3. Have one student in each group write the question or statement at the top of a piece of paper.

  4. The student with the piece of paper responds to the question or statement at the top of the page.

  5. Students pass the note around their groups, having each student add a sentence or phrase that relates to the question and builds upon, extends, or disagrees with the other comments. Encourage students to build upon the last note made so that it connects with the ideas they are adding.

  6. When finished, the chain notes can be read aloud or projected on a screen, allowing students to give feedback or to defend their reasoning.

Keeley, P. (2008). Science formative assessment: 75 practical strategies for linking assessment, instruction, and learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, SAGE.