summary, lecture, key, main points, review, large course, large lecture, large enrollment, pedagogy, lecture hall, large classroom
Time and Effort
Instructor Prep Time Low
Student Activity Time Low
Instructor Response Time Low
Complexity of Activity Low
Room Considerations None


The 3-2-1 activity has students write three things they learned from a lecture, two things they found particularly interesting, and one question they still have after the lecture.

Use it when you want...

  • Students to summarize, evaluate, and question key ideas and information presented in the lecture.
  • Students to listen effectively
  • To provide a way for students to scaffold information.
  • Students to reconsider key concepts.
  • To know how well students understood and consumed the content presented in the lecture.

What students will need

  • A smartphone or laptop.


The following workflow is meant to guide how to facilitate a 3-2-1 learning activity in a large lecture class.


  • Review your lecture notes to ensure that you will introduce a sufficient number of new concepts or facts for the activity to succeed.
  • Determine the amount of time it will take students to complete the activity.
  • Create a Top Hat question for students to submit their results.


  • Deliver the lecture.
  • Inform students of the activity at the beginning of the lecture. Tell them when the activity will take place (at the end of the lecture) and the purpose of the activity (to help them summarize key ideas presented in the lecture).
  • At the end of the lecture, present the anonymous Top Hat question prompt and give students time to complete it.
  • Remind students that this activity is ungraded but should help them apply concepts covered through the lecture.
  • Ask students to submit their statements via the Top Hat question.
  • Ask volunteers to share their summaries.
  • Facilitate a discussion around the summaries shared with the class. Provide support for perspectives that are shared.
  • Let students know that all submissions will be reviewed after class.


  • Have the teaching assistant review the full list of responses and summarize them at the beginning of the next lecture or in Canvas.

Example Top Hat Discussion Type Question

A) Write three things you learned from the lecture today.
B) Write two things you found particularly interesting.
C) Write one question you still have after the lecture.
Directions: Label each section of your response with an A), B), and C).
A) The three things I learned are...
B) The two things I found interesting are...
C) The one question I still have is...

Accessibility and Room Considerations

  • None

Technical Documentation


Example 1

A Science Fiction instructor was concerned that discussions were often falling flat. She decided to have students do a 3-2-1 activity following her lecture to ensure they understood the content and to give them time to process their thoughts and ideas. For example, after reading and attending her lecture on Endre's Game, she gave students a handout with prompts for the three question areas. Once students were done, she began the discussion portion of the class (Barkley & Major 332).

Example 2

The Psychology instructor was planning a lecture on Maslow's hierarchy of needs. The lecture was intended as an introduction, and the class would spend several additional sessions talking about Maslow's work and his model. The professor wanted to check for understanding of the basic concept of the hierarchy immediately after the first session.  He decided to use the 3-2-1 activity to provide him with this information.  At the end of the lecture, he presented a Top Hat question that asked them to respond to the three question prompts. He reviewed the results and provided feedback at the start of the next session. (Barkley & Major 332-333).


Barkley, E. F., & Major, C. H. (2018). Interactive lecturing: A handbook for college faculty. John Wiley & Sons, 331-335.

OwnerTimmo D.GroupInstructional Resources
Created2023-05-12 12:49:08Updated2024-04-16 12:55:16
SitesCenter for Teaching, Learning & Mentoring
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