For this week’s edition of Magna Mondays, we chose a 20-Minute Mentor that is full of ideas for short activities that you can use to break up your lectures, engage your students, and help your students remember what they are learning: “How Can I Use Microactivities to Engage Students and Improve Learning and Retention?” presented by Dr. Wren Mills.

You can access the video in 20-Minute Mentor Commons in the Chapman University Magna Campus.

What are microactivities?

Microactivities are short learning activities (often 5 minutes or less) that allow instructors to engage and check in with students.  There are many different kinds of microactivities.  They can be used to assess students’ understanding of concepts, promote critical thinking, encourage discussion and interaction, and more!

Benefits of using microactivities

Research shows that:

  • Most people have a 15 minute attention span.
  • Students learn more effectively when material is presented in several short sessions rather than in one long session.
  • We need to “touch” information multiple times in multiple ways in order to remember that information long term.

Breaking up a class session with microactivities helps students stay engaged and creates more opportunities for students to learn and remember the material.

Examples of microactivities

Here are a few examples of microactivities that you can use at the beginning, middle, or end of class:

  • Brainstorm Blitz: Have students get into groups of 2-3 to come up with as many ideas as they can about a topic that will be introduced that day.
  • YouTube Video: After discussing a topic, play a YouTube video that demonstrates it.  Ask students to critique the video based on what they learned in the lecture.
  • Twitter Talk: Create a class hashtag and have students share their biggest takeaway from the day’s lesson on Twitter.  Students can reply to each other, and you can answer any lingering questions.

See Dr. Amy Marin’s list of 50 Micro-Activities for Energizing the College Classroom for more ideas!

Tips for integrating microactivities

  • Choose activities that will work for your class.
  • Keep it simple: Don’t use too many microactivities in a class period.  Consider choosing 3-4 microactivities that you will use throughout the term so that your students become familiar with the activities and know what is expected.
  • Be prepared with supplies and materials for the activity if needed.
  • Align the microactivity with a learning goal for the day or with a course objective so that students understand the purpose of doing the activity.


  • Hattie, J., & Yates, G. C. R. (2014). How learning is acquired. In Visible learning and the science of how we learn. New York: Routledge.
  • Marin, A. (2011). Using active learning to energize the psychology classroom: Fifty exercises that take five minutes or less. Presented at the National Institute on the Teaching of Psychology.

Wishing you a wonderful week!