Top 10 SOS for Professional Learning

Welcome to the SOS Top Ten series. In this edition, we highlight some ways to use SOS instructional strategies (CDN Version) as tools for professional learning.

You may already know that SOS instructional strategies are the most popular Discovery Education resources for designing engaging instruction for students, but have you considered that these strategies also engage educators in professional learning sessions, too?

They encourage active involvement, provide participation structures, and give opportunities for individual reflection and participation.

Whether you use SOS to break the ice, summarize key ideas and details, or encourage deeper analysis and synthesis of new information, using these strategies in professional learning situations will encourage educators to think differently when learning with digital media.

Here are ten favorite SOS instructional strategies to use for professional learning.

We hope you’ll try one or more of the SOS instructional strategies and share your experience in the DEN Online Community.

Break the Ice


Tom Clowes and Sheila Fredericks suggest using Three Truths and One Lie (CDN Version) as an icebreaker. It’s a fun and easy way for participants to introduce themselves or for the facilitator to introduce a topic related to the focus of the session.


Robyn Carden suggests using Table Top Texting (CDN Version) because it allows for everyone to have a voice without having everyone talking all at once.


Try using 4 Corners (CDN Version) to help participants share and explore different viewpoints of a discussion topic.

Summarize Key Ideas and Details


Lindsay Foster suggests using Sticky Back (CDN Version) to engage all participants, giving them voice and opportunity to summarize key takeaways and share with their peers. She also suggests this as a management strategy: use multiple colors of sticky notes to allow participants to respond to multiple question prompts.


Emy Aultman suggests using A-E-I-O-U (CDN Version) as an exit slip that summarizes key ideas and details from the professional learning session:

  • A (adjective) – What word to describes this session?
  • E (emotion) – How does this information make you feel?
  • I (Interesting) – What did you learn that was interesting?
  • O (oh!) – What surprised you?
  • U (um?) – What questions do you have?


Curt Witthoff suggests using using ABC Summary (CDN Version) as a collective summarization of a professional development session. Collect A-Z responses with traditional paper/pencil submissions or in a digital format (such as a Google Doc). Then, share the outcome of this collaborative summary with all participants.

Analyze and Synthesize Information


Lindsay Foster suggests using 3-2-1 Pyramid (CDN Version) as a way to wrap up a professional learning session.  Ask teachers to synthesize their experience by listing three things they learned, two people they will share with when they return to their schools, and one thing they will commit to using in their classrooms in the coming week.


Dana Johnston suggests using 6 Word Story (CDN Version) to gauge where teachers are in their learning. Responses that indicate teachers are overwhelmed might mean it is time for a break, while indications of confusion might mean it is time to revisit and clarify material that you’ve already presented.


A favorite in Discovery Education Professional Learning sessions is Placemat (CDN Version), which helps ensure all participants have equity of voice and accountability for participation when summarizing a concept.


Francie Snyder suggests using Connect the Dots (CDN Version) to encourage deeper thinking and response to material.


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