Create a question before class, one that asks who, what, when, where, why but also asks a larger contextual question. Students have five minutes to write down their answers. They can use their notes/textbook/handouts, etc. At the end of the timed writing period you can call on a few students to explain their answers.
Make a set of four to five questions. Divide class into small groups, the smaller the better. Tell groups to pick one person to write the group’s answer down. Assign one question to each group and give them 3 to 5 minutes to answer the question in their group. It’s okay if more than one group is assigned the same question. After it’s clear that all groups have finished answering the question either have each group send one person to the white board to write their answer OR call on each group to answer the question. If more than one group answered the same question, follow-up by asking the other group if they have anything to add to the first group’s response. You can use questions from the textbook usually found at the end of the chapter or make up your own.
Take a longer reading and break it up by chapter or section. Place students in 4-5 member groups and assign each group one section of the reading. They can answer a discussion question, create a list of major themes, or simply make an outline of the narrative or argument. At the end of the working time, have each group ‘teach’ their section to the rest of the class.
Have students make timelines based on lecture or reading topics, while also researching and adding context both in the same region/state/nation and elsewhere in the world. They can do this in small groups. Call on each group and ask them to fill in a blank on the timeline.
Begin with a big idea. For example: “which issue was the most important to the start of the American Revolution?” Have the class create a long list while you write the answers on the whiteboard. Then, by a show of hands, start eliminating the reasons that get the least votes. Do this for the whole list. Continue, round after round, until you get down to two, then tell students that they need to unanimously agree on one in order to “win.” (The ‘win’ is up to you – bonus points, candy, etc). Students have to persuade each other to get them to agree with their position. At the end, make sure to sum it all up - what’s missing, what should be added back, what issues were working in tandem, etc.
Make cards that assign each student a character or point of view from an assigned reading. Give all the characters a task (they’re on a jury and need to make a decision, they need to decide whether to unionize, join the army, etc.) Have the characters present their position and explain the reasons why they are acting in a certain way.