SOS Top Ten: Make Sense of Learning (McREL International Phase 4)

DID YOU KNOW: Spotlight on Strategies (CDN) instructional ideas are aligned to McREL International’s six-phase model for learning?

This model arranges strategies for teaching and learning into a larger process for helping new knowledge travel through the phases of memory in our students.

In this Top Ten series, we showcase SOS instructional strategy alignment to each of the six phases of the McREL model, helping educators choose the appropriate classroom tactics for aiding the acquisition and recall of information.

This week, we feature Phase 4: Make Sense of Learning, which focuses on helping students make sense of learning by making connections to previous experiences and knowledge.


Whittle It Down (CDN Version) provides scaffolding to help students with summarization. Students whittle down large chunks of information as a whole group, small group, and then independently, generating a list of important words from the text. Students then use their final words to create a summary of the topic.


Reporter’s Notebook (CDN Version) helps students discern the difference between facts and feelings. Students watch and analyze a video clip or other piece of media and identify and provide evidence for all the facts first, and all the feelings next.


Tug of War (CDN Version) develops students’ abilities in the art of deliberation and debate. To create a tug-of-war activity, students are placed in two groups to argue opposing sides of an issue, using reasoning and evidence.


Yesterday’s News (CDN Version) provides students an opportunity to learn about history by becoming reporters. Students collect information on historical events, write headlines and articles, and produce newspapers to report on what they have learned.


Six Word Story (CDN Version) allows students to practice summarizing and selective word choice. Students use an image or an article as the basis for a story that conveys a big idea using only six words.


Vocabulary Stepping Stone (CDN Version) focuses students on pre-selected vocabulary words from a video before screening, giving students a purpose and focus for viewing. During and after the video, students listen for and arrange the words to underscore the content and reinforce the vocabulary.


Jigsaw (CDN Version) encourages student groups to assemble new knowledge cooperatively. Teachers organize information and resources, assign different resources to student groups, and facilitate sharing with the whole class.


Feature Find (CDN Version) focuses students on informational text features by asking them to identify particular text features and their purpose.


Concept Circles (CDN Version) helps students analyze the relationships between content words by using a circle organizer to determine the concept of study. Students identify and discuss vocabulary and its relationship to content and then represent their analysis in the organizer.


Would You Rather (CDN Version) asks students to consider different options within the context of history. Students are asked to choose one of two options presented to a particular figure in history and justify their choices with evidence.


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