Using the Tic-Tac-Toe Strategy to Differentiate Instruction

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  • 0:00 Tic-Tac-Toe Boards
  • 1:12 Levels of Understanding
  • 3:15 Designing Tic-Tac-Toe Boards
  • 5:15 Tic-Tac-Toe Usage
  • 6:36 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

Great teachers make sure to teach to all learning styles. One way to do this is to use a Tic-Tac-Toe board. This lesson will teach how to design and arrange tasks so all students have an opportunity to learn.

Tic-Tac-Toe Boards

Mr. Kotter has many different types of learners in his classroom. Some of them are visual and learn best by seeing things happen. Others are kinesthetic and are better learners when they're active. Still others are verbal, learning and processing information best when they hear it. How can Mr. Kotter create activities that differentiate, or support all his students' learning styles?

One way is to use a tic-tac-toe method, also called a think-tac-toe, to organize learning activities. This strategy uses the familiar three-by-three grid of a tic-tac-toe board into which the teacher inserts different activities in each square. Students choose three activities to create 'three in a row,' just like playing the original game. He is careful with the design of the tic-tac-toe board - he wants to make sure students are supported and comfortable with tasks, but challenged with them as well. How does he do this? Let's take a look at the setup of a tic-tac-toe board.

Levels of Understanding

Mr. Kotter sets up his tic-tac-toe boards with intention and attention to detail. The 9-cell grid is designed to make sure that no matter which way a student chooses to make the 'three in a row,' they are showing their understanding of key concepts and ideas in different ways. To do this, he formats the grid to make sure different levels of understanding, or how deeply students show they comprehend, are placed in squares strategically to make sure students have to choose at least one high level skill. He makes sure to include:


Students show their basic knowledge of a concept with activities such as listing, defining, drawing, or labeling.


When students choose a square to show they comprehend, they summarize, compare and contrast, estimate, discuss, predict, or extend the concept.


This square asks students to apply knowledge in a new way, such as illustrating, modifying, changing, or classifying.


Mr. Kotter asks students to analyze content by explaining, classifying, dividing, arranging, inferring, or ordering.


Students may also choose to synthesize information by rewriting, modifying, integrating, composing, or rearranging.


Finally, students can evaluate content by measuring, ranking, judging, discriminating, arguing, and convincing.

These skills, listed from lowest level to highest, are important when creating a tic-tac-toe board.

Designing Tic-Tac-Toe Boards

You may have noticed that there are only six levels of understanding but nine squares on a tic-tac-toe board. When designing tic-tac-toe boards for his classroom, Mr. Kotter needs to repeat three levels; he chooses which based on his learning objectives. He also keeps learning styles in mind, or different ways students are best able to learn, such as kinesthetic or auditory.

blooms tic tac toe

He's planning a tic-tac-toe board for students to practice their spelling words. Let's look at specific activities he uses to go along with learning styles and levels of understanding.

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