Focused Listing

Facilitating Focused Listing active learning activities in physically-distanced learning spaces

Time and Effort

Student Activity TimeLow
Instructor Prep TimeLow
Instructor Response TimeLow
Complexity of ActivityLow


Focused Listing directs students’ attention on a single relevant term, name, or concept from a particular lesson or class session and asks them to list several ideas that are closely related to that focal point. It is useful to quickly determine what learners recall as the essential points of a particular topic.


Use it when you want...

  • To assess how well students can describe central points in a lesson,
  • To illuminate the connections students make between topics, or
  • To help students learn to focus attention and improve recall, mainly when you introduce a large amount of new information.

What students will need


The following workflow is meant as guidance for how you can facilitate a Focused Listing learning activity within a classroom with a physical distancing layout.


  • Decide when the activity will take place (before, during, or after a relevant lesson). Use the results to gauge the best starting point, make midpoint corrections, or measure the class’s progress in learning one specific element of the course content.
  • Select a topic or concept that the class has just studied or will study and describe it in a word or phrase.
  • Write that word or phrase at the top of a sheet of paper as a heading of related terms critical to understanding that topic.
  • Determine a time and item limit.
  • Based on the time and item limit set, test it out by making a list of words and phrases you can recall that are related to and subsumed by your heading.
  • Review your list, looking for any items you may have left out.
  • Create a Top Hat Discussion Question to present and collect responses.


  • Present the topic to students using Top Hat, and ask them to create their list.
  • Give students a time limit for their responses.
  • Wait until time has completed and then display the results.
  • Review and synthesize results. Use results to guide another activity in response.


  • Review the outcomes of the activity.

Accessibility and Room Considerations

  • Classroom furniture is not to be rearranged to facilitate activities. If you need a different general assignment classroom to meet your instructional needs, contact your curricular representative.
  • If students are to move around the room during an activity, consider the mobility, location, equipment, and furniture needs of all students.
  • The physical distance between students (particularly in large lecture halls) may make it difficult for students to hear one another when they are asked to speak.
  • This same physical distance may increase the noise level in the room as students try to speak to one another. This noise level may cause issues for some students. To this end, it is recommended that group size be limited to pairs (ideally) or triads at most. Activities requiring larger group sizes should utilize text-based chat solutions like those found in Zoom.
  • The technologies recommended here should meet most campus accessibility requirements. However, you should check with the McBurney Disability Resources Center for guidance on any specific accommodations for your students.

Technical Documentation


Angelo, Thomas A., and K. Patricia Cross. Classroom Assessment Techniques: a Handbook for College Teachers. Jossey-Bass, 1993. pp. 126-131.

See Also:

Keywords:focused listing, active learning, remote instruction, physical distance, prior knowledge   Doc ID:104171
Owner:Timmo D.Group:Remote Instruction
Created:2020-07-20 15:34 CDTUpdated:2021-06-29 09:26 CDT
Sites:Remote Instruction
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