Ongoing engagement

Pass the Paper

Create an opportunity for your students to connect through writing.

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Pass the Paper
Educator prep: None
Student prep: None
Shared online space
Duration: 5-30 mins

Activity purpose

The purpose of the virtual Pass the Paper activity is for participants to have an opportunity to connect synchronously through writing rather than speaking.

Useful for

  • Crowdsourcing questions or challenges.
  • Consensus building.
  • Identifying common themes or experiences.


Minimal: Open a new google slides file and add a blank slide for each participant. You can also add a title slide and a directions slide if it would be helpful for participants to have a written version of the activity instructions. Make sure the google slides sharing settings are set to “anyone with the link can edit.”


  1. Facilitator shares the link to the slide deck and assigns each participant to a slide. You can either number the slide and verbally assign each participant to a slide, or if you know the participants in advance, write each person’s name on one slide.
  2. Introduce the question. The simplest version of the activity uses the question “What is a challenge that you are having learning/teaching this semester?”
  3. Each participant gets 3 minutes to write down their challenge. Facilitator gives a 30 second warning before the end of the 3 minutes.
  4. Response round 1: Each participant moves from their original slide to the slide directly below them in the deck (the person with the final slide moves to the top slide). Everyone then gets 3 minutes to give advice or responses to the challenge that is on their card. During the three minutes, they can provide their response in bulleted form or in a written paragraph.
  5. Response round 2: Each participant moves down a slide again. They get three minutes to read the initial challenge, the first response, and provide an additional response. More rounds of responses can be added by repeating this process.
  6. Each participant returns to their original slide, and reads the responses they have received. Facilitator asks for volunteers to share how the responses they received helped them, or what patterns they observed by getting to see what challenges other participants are dealing with.


10-15 minutes, depending on the length of the “rounds” and how long the debrief discussion takes.

Adaptations and examples

This activity can easily be adapted to use more public or more private “papers.” For example, the whole activity could be done in the open (on Twitter for example) by using tweets as the initial question and replies as the responses. It could also be done by private message or email for more privacy. It can also be adapted by changing the initial question and changing the response structure (changing the number of response rounds, changing the time intervals).

Technical requirements

Minimal - access to google slides, video conferencing platform or phone connection.

Useful resources

More 'Ongoing engagement' activities:
Equity Unbound Activity
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Tiny Tales
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Cognitive/exam Wrappers for Metacognition
Help students reflect on their exam/assessment performance in order to improve future performance in your course.
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