Warm up activities

Spiral Journal

Promote focus and reflection while allowing individuals to compose responses thoughtfully and calmly in writing.

Click on the CC icon in the bottom right corner of the video to turn on closed captions.  

Spiral Journal
Educator prep: None
Student prep: None
Video conferencing, Breakout rooms, Paper / pens
Duration: 5-30 mins

Activity purpose

Promote focus and reflection while allowing individuals to compose responses thoughtfully and calmly in writing. This can help generate and gather large amounts of data quickly and can amplify or punctuate large group interactions.

Useful for

First day of class, beginning or end of class, beginning or end of a module or such. 

Useful for encouraging focus, and especially helpful for reflective, shy students, or people who need more time to think before participating, or people for whom your language of instruction is not their first language. 

It is useful in how it allows students reflection time, and not everything they write and think about during the activity needs to be shared, but they get time to reflect and choose what they wish to share (contrast with Mad Tea which is a much faster process with little reflection time, but has lots of energy).


  • Prepare slides with the four questions for four quadrants (see slides to download and adapt below).
  • Ask participants to bring paper and pen(cil).


  1. Invite participants to fold a sheet in half-and-half-again (1 min)
  2. Invite everyone to place the point of their writing implement at the center of the page and start drawing a spiral as tightly-and-slowly as possible (2 mins)
  3. At the conclusion of the spiral drawing, invite participants to complete the four quadrants with different prompts for each one. Spend ~1 min/quadrant (~4 mins)
  4. Ask participants to circle/underline one thing or one word they had written (~1 min)
  5. Optional: Send participants to breakout rooms in groups of 2-3 to share one thing (~4-5 mins)


About 10-12 minutes. The video above models it from start to finish. Additional resources below give you access to the slides and additional prompt ideas you can use to adapt the slides for your own purposes.

Technical requirements

No specific technology required.

Useful resources

More 'Warm up activities' activities:
Equity Unbound Activity
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Equity Unbound Activity
Pop-up Psychogeography Journey Journal
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Sarah-Jane Crowson
Equity Unbound Activity
While We Wait
Make use of the 5-10 minutes before class time or if you give a break in the middle of class.
Jasmina Najjar

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