Pick a Number Teaching Strategy | Facing History & Ourselves
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Teaching Strategy

Pick a Number

Introduce students to several perspectives on a topic by having them pick a quotation to explore with their classmates.


At a Glance

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Teaching Strategy


English — US


  • English & Language Arts
  • History
  • Social Studies




What Is the Pick a Number Strategy?

The Pick a Number strategy asks students to read a selection of quotations on a topic and choose one to explore more deeply. Use this strategy when you want to briefly introduce students to several perspectives on a topic and then offer each student the choice of which perspective to discuss and investigate in more detail with their classmates.

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Lesson Plans

How to Use the Pick a Number Strategy

Decide on the topic that you want students to learn about. It might be an event, issue, or debate from history, literature, or human behavior. Then select at least three quotations (from a single source, such as a novel, or from a variety of sources) that represent different perspectives on the topic. Create a poster for each of the quotations (assigning each a number) and display them around the room.

Give students a few minutes to read each quotation. You can have them circulate around the room silently to read each poster, or you might put all of the quotations on a handout for students to review in their places. Then have each student select one of the quotations that they would like to discuss further with a group of their classmates. Once students have chosen a quotation, they should stand next to its poster. If a quotation is chosen by only one student, ask that student to choose again.

Now give the groups of students time to discuss their chosen quotations. Many teachers will provide a set of questions to guide the discussion. You might choose to have each group use the same set of questions to discuss their quotation, or you might create questions specific to each quotation. Alternatively, you might have students simply use the Connect, Extend, Challenge strategy to guide their discussions.

After the group discussions conclude, lead a class discussion in which students report out on their groups’ discussions. Ask students to comment on ideas and perspectives from other groups that felt relevant to their group’s discussion. What similarities and differences did they notice between the various discussions that occurred?

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