Use ‘Big Paper’ learning

Big Paper Teaching Strategy

Activity: Use writing and silence as tools to help students explore a topic in-depth.


Using text for a conversation with peers slows down thinking process and gives an opportunity to focus on the views of others.

This strategy also creates a visual record of students’ thoughts and questions that can be referred to later in a course. Using the Big Paper strategy can help engage shy students who are not as likely to participate in a verbal discussion. After using this strategy several times, students’ comfort, confidence, and skill with this method increases.

  1. In pairs or a group of 3 you should have a big piece of paper or online space to work on (chat for example).
  2. Each person chooses a colour to use (a texta colour or text colour if you are working online).
  3. Then use the stimulus piece provided below to get started.


Watch the short film ‘A time for reflection’ and discuss why it can be said that the media demonises Aboriginal people.

  • You will need to work in silence, all communication is done in writing, there will an opportunity for discussion at the end of this activity.
  • You will be commenting on the stimulus piece, and asking questions of each other in writing on the Big Paper for 15 minutes. The written conversation must start on the text but can stray to wherever you take it. If someone in the group writes a question, another member of the group should address the question by writing on the Big Paper. You can draw lines connecting a comment to a particular question.
  • Only one of you can write on the Big Paper at the same time. 
  • Start now- remember you are in silence. Look/read your stimulus piece in silence and start commenting for the next 15 minutes.
  • After 15 minutes has passed, and still working in silence, leave your partner/group and view the other pairs/groups Big Papers. You can write comments or further questions for thought on other Big Papers.
  • Silence is broken. Return to your own Big Paper.
  • You can discuss any comments with your pair/group and then join a bigger group discussion.

Discuss: What did you learn from doing this activity?


  1. Little paper: With “Little Paper,” the “stimulus” (question, excerpt, quotation, etc) is placed in the centre of a regular sized piece of paper. Often teachers select 4-5 different “stimuli” and create groups of the same size. Each student begins by commenting on the “stimuli” on his/her little paper. After a few minutes, the little paper is passed to the student on the left (or right). This process is repeated until all students have had the opportunity to comment on every little paper. All of this is done in silence, just like the Big Paper activity. Then students review the little paper they had first, noticing comments made by their peers. Finally, small groups have a discussion about the questions and ideas that strike them from this exercise.
  2. Gallery walk: The Big Paper activity can also be structured as a gallery walk. With this structure, Big Papers are taped to the walls or placed on tables, and students comment on the Big Papers in silence, at their own pace. Sometimes teachers assign students, often in pairs or trios, to a particular Big Paper and then have them switch to the next one after five or ten minutes.