What is it?

The snowball learning strategy has various incarnations that can be applied to an active learning classroom. Whichever incarnation a teacher chooses the technique can provide a different spin to learning and exploring topics and concepts. The technique encourages classroom discussion and group cooperation providing students the opportunity share knowledge and information with each other and the class.

Essentially students write on a piece of paper a topic or concept. These topics can come from a reading, video, previous lecture or a question about the course content. The goal is for students to write something that will encourage discussion and will ...

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The snowball learning strategy has various incarnations that can be applied to an active learning classroom. Whichever incarnation a teacher chooses the technique can provide a different spin to learning and exploring topics and concepts. The technique encourages classroom discussion and group cooperation providing students the opportunity share knowledge and information with each other and the class.

Essentially students write on a piece of paper a topic or concept. These topics can come from a reading, video, previous lecture or a question about the course content. The goal is for students to write something that will encourage discussion and will help them to better understand the subject matter. However in this case instead of the teacher assigning the discussion topic students themselves get to decide.

Once students write on the piece of paper they crutch it up into a ball – A snowball. Students then get to throw their paper snowball into the air or to the front of the class. Students can either catch or retrieve a snowball or the teacher can collect and distribute them. When the snowballs are distributed students are then organized into groups (or pairs) where they can discuss the topic within a specific time frame. When time is up student groups can then share their view and conclusions on their snowball topic with the class.

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When to use it?

Context & Requirements

Level
All levels
Discipline
All disciplines
Class size
All class sizes
Classroom settings
No specific classroom setting required
Technological requirements
None

Skills Promoted

  • Cooperative & collaborative Learning
  • Divergent thinking
  • Peer learning
  • Problem solving
  • Reflective analysis

Who’s using it?

SALTISE community members who use this strategy and are willing to share advice and/or resources.

Level College
Institution Dawson College
Discipline Anatomy
Instructor Tim Miller
Class size 30-40
Classroom setting Traditional Classroom with Whiteboards or interactive whiteboards
Resources used View More

Why use it?

With snowball, students are exposed to “publication” of their knowledge and are given the opportunity to peer review another group’s work. This requires students to cooperate in order to come to a consensus. Because each group presents their findings, students can be exposed to more examples in the time that it takes them to work through one.

When different groups go at a different pace this can complicate how the class is managed. If one group is too far ahead, assistance can be provided to the teams that are lagging behind without hindering the group learning process. If one team is only slightly ahead, they can be provided with additional questions or asked to revisit what they have done.

Ready to try it out?

Helpful resources

References

Filer, K., Lusk, D., Shoop, T., Williams, L., Baum, L., Velez, A. L., … & Alberts, B. 2018 Conference on Teaching Large Classes.

Gani, S. A.,  Erwina, R.  & Yusuf, Y. Q. (2017). The Effectiveness of Snowball Throwing Technique in Teaching Reading Comprehension. Conference paper: The 1st National Conference on Teachers’ Professional Development, At Syiah Kuala University, Banda Aceh, Indonesia.

Ginting, N. (2018). Improving student learning motivation by using cooperative learning of snowball throwing model on social sciences subject at topic diversity of ethnic and cultural of Indonesia at SDN 055985, academic year 2017/2018. Vision14(14).

Marlena, N.  (2016). Implementation of learning snowball throwing method to improve student learning outcomes of operation management subject. The 1 st International Conference on Economic Education and Entrepreneurship.

The Science Teacher (2011). The Snowball Questioning Method.

Ten Dam, G., & Volman, M. (2004). Critical thinking as a citizenship competence: teaching strategiesLearning and instruction14(4), 359-379.

 

Video

Incremental learning: ‘Snowball’ Techniques  – Teaching Channel (TCH)

“Snowball Active Learning Technique” – TATP creative teaching strategy from University of Toronto

Snowball + Simulation–Two Strategies – Jordan School District’s Professional Development channel

Snowball: An instructional technique – Dr. Laura Elizabeth Pinto, Faculty of Education, University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT)

Websites 

Spotlight on Strategies: Snowball fight. An instructional spin on a ‘paper snowball fight’. Discovery Education Europe

Group Work – The Snowballing Technique. Blog: Go Back to School.

Group work in the Classroom: Snowball technique – University of Waterloo

To Learn More

For more reading resources go to Articles and Books