3-2-1 Bridge: A creative warm-up and follow-up routine

In this post I will talk about the 3-2-1 Bridge thinking routine. The word Bridge is used to indicate the routine has two related stages. I have found it an interesting and effective activity in prompting students’ creative thinking. This applies to a) activating their prior knowledge on a topic, b) fostering their readiness in generating ideas c) extending their thinking to new directions and d) facilitating reflection on this shift in their thinking. The routine works well as warm-up at the beginning and as a follow-up at the end of a topic.

Step 1
At the beginning of the topic ask students to generate
3 words
2 questions
1 simile

that quickly come to mind when they think of this topic. Students can work individually, in pairs or in groups. Explain that similes are connections we make, comparing one thing to another because they are alike in some way. The words “like” or “as” are typically used. Ask students for an example of a simile first and provide one yourself if needed.

Step 2

Share the thinking. Ask students to share their ideas with their classmates and make them visible within the classroom.

This is how my students responded to this part of the routine. I tried it with 2 groups of 6th grade primary school students (mixed ability, pre-intermediate/intermediate). We did this routine when working on the topic of friendship. Students first recorded their responses in their notebooks, shared them with their classmates, and displayed them in the classroom on post-it notes.

Step 3                                                                                                                                
Provide a period of further learning and elaborating on the topic. This may be a text, story, video, image that conveys new information. Make sure that this instructional period is sufficient for students to move their thinking beyond their initial understandings.

Step4                                                                                                                                             At the end of the topic, return to the 3-2-1 routine and repeat step 1. That is, ask the students again for 3 words, 2 questions and 1 simile about the topic.

Share the thinking by Bridging. You can do this by holding a plenary discussion or having students discuss in pairs how their thinking and final responses might be similar or different from their initial ones.
In my classroom practice the instructional period involved: a set of questions for students to reflect upon and respond, an extract from a poem, a extract from a short story and a short animation film. It was really interesting how after reading, watching and discussing, new thoughts and ideas came to the fore. Students’ final response to the 3-2-1 Bridge revealed a more extended use of the notions of judging, rejection, weakness, betrayal, jealousy and selfishness when we think about friendship than in their initial responses. These notions may have to do with many different issues, but some of the ones students thought are important were: appearance, disability, coming from another country, being a very good or a bad student. As one student wrote in her final remarks:
Why don’t you want me?
Because I’m ugly, too short, fat
or from another country?

Do you reject me?

It was also interesting that in their final responses many of the students wrote that empathy is important when we talk and think about friendship.

Tip: the routine works well with topics students have prior knowledge of.


Art in the English Class Project, http://1stchaidarienglish.blogspot.gr/search/label/Friendship

Visible Thinking, http://www.visiblethinkingpz.org/VisibleThinking_html_files/VisibleThinking1.html


13 thoughts on “3-2-1 Bridge: A creative warm-up and follow-up routine”

  1. Beix, as I have written in the post the routine works best with topics students have prior knowledge of. It may be a concept that they know a lot about in one context but instruction will focus their learning in a new direction, or it may be a concept about which students have only informal knowledge. Bullying, disability, child labour, environmental pollution, animal extinction are topics I believe this routine could work well with. Generally topics of social justice and human rights are valuable in prompting students' thinking to new directions alongside developing their English language skills. Hope that helps. Thanks for your comment.


  2. That is really a very good idea and it serves speaking , writing and creative thinking . Sometimes our students are not pleased with the ending of some famous novels that they have studied . Based on this we can ask them questions such as What would you do if you were …and choose one of the characters of the story …and later in the productive stage when can ask them to write their own endings .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Naing, thank you for taking the time to comment on quite a few posts. I would be happy if you got some ideas that are useful in your teaching setting.


  3. Reblogged this on Dr Mike Kenteris and commented:
    This activity was reposted on FB by ELT planning. I believe Chrysa Papalazarou has explained this activity in detail and believe this will motivate my students to think about the topic at hand in our lesson. What attracted me to this activity was stage 3 where they repeated the 3-2-1 activity again after further investigating the topic at hand with a reading activity. I really believe this will be an interesting activity to try with my class. Have to let you know how it went!

    Liked by 1 person

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