Three Tricks for Picking Your First Activity

August 16, 2022

Text reads "Back to school check list check in #1: Finding your opening activity." Shows the Pivot Interactives logo and a "to do" list.

Three Tricks for Picking Your First Pivot Interactives Activity

Linda gives a three tricks on filtering activities, choosing an activity, and using technology. Start here to implement more phenomena-based, active learning in your science classroom.

You learned about Pivot Interactives. You convinced your admin to purchase Pivot Interactives!

Now comes the hard part: With over 500 expertly crafted activities to choose from, what activity should you do first?! How do you select a first activity that is a good fit for YOUR class?

Trick #1: Focus with Filters (And More...)

There are six filter categories in the Pivot Interactives library. Each one is designed to help you hone in on a great starting activity!

Filter #1: Subject

If you're like me, you may not know what number goes with your standard, but you likely know the topic!

You can search by common topics using our Subjects filter.

Select from one of six courses:

* Astronomy

* Biology

* Chemistry

* Earth and Space Science

* Environmental Science

* Physics

Selecting a subject will narrow your Topics.

Filter #2: Topic

Once you have selected a subject, you can see the Topics.

Each topic splits into common units. For example, chemistry includes a unit on stoichiometry and biology includes a unit on genetics. This makes it really easy to find those topics that you already teach. Some topics have subtopics for more deep diving.

Filter #3: Grading

On a scale of 0 to 100%, how much of the activity do you want to grade? This filter shows you the total points of the activity that require your grading input.

If you would prefer mostly to fully autograded activities, try 60-100%.

Filter #4: Standards

If you follow the NGSS or AP standards, you will find those in National Standards. Expand this filter to find you Advanced Placement®️ (AP) courses, International Baccalaureate®️ (IB) courses, or Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Expand a heading to find your courses, then expand the course to find your units and topics. AP Units are based on the most recent publishing of the Course and Exam Description. IB Units are based on the most recent publishing of course expectations.

(Note: AP is a registered trademark by the College Board which is not affiliated with and does not endorse Pivot Interactives. IB is a registered trademark by International Baccalaureate which is not affiliated with and does not endorse Pivot Interactives.)

Filter #5: Difficulty

We categorize difficulty into two forms: grade level and scaffolding.

Grade Levels:

Our grade levels follow standard grade progressions:

* Middle School: Grades 6-8

* High School: Grades 9-12

* Advanced High School: Emphasis on AP/IB

* College and University: Post HS Graduation


Additionally, we offer various levels of scaffolding.

* High (Step-by-Step) - Activities include additional instructions on how to use key Pivot Interactives features, hints, additional answer attempts, and cognitive scaffolds, such smaller texts or more pictures.

* Medium (Guided) - Activities include hints, additional answer attempts, and some cognitive scaffolds, such smaller texts or more pictures. These activities tend to include less Pivot-related instruction.

* Low (open-ended) - These short activities tend to feature less than five questions and require the student to be able to make all of the cognitive leaps on their own: you won't find hints, multiple choice questions, or long explanation texts in these activities. These are best for college-level courses.

All of our High (Step-by-Step) scaffolded activities are made for new Pivot users!

Filter #6: Location in the Instructional Cycle

When you use an activity matters just as much as what kind of activity you use.

We sort activities into three categories:

* Early: These activities are meant to introduce the concept. Use them to pave the way to learning by allowing them to discover concepts before you deliver the content.

* Middle: Already taught the concept, but you want a chance to reinforce it? These application activities are perfect for formative assessments of their skills.

* End: Ready to test, but you're not wanting to write a test? Use an assessment activity to not only assess their content knowledge but also gain greater insight into their science skills are well.

We recommend starting with an introductory activity early in your course. Try starting with your students within the first 30 days of class!

Filter #7: The Keyword Search

Do you know what you want, but you're not sure where to find it? Use a keyword to search for activities.

This text search looks at the whole activity for that word or phrase!

Trick #2: The Three Rs of a Good Activity

Each activity we assign should be selected deliberately and carefully. This is even MORE true when we think about the first activity. The first activity is  for you and the students: if it goes well, your students will be more likely to engage in the activities in the future. If it goes well, you will WANT to do more in the future. Anecdotally and based on our research, students that use Pivot Interactives are confident, understand the material, and enjoy learning with the activities.

With that in mind, there are 3 Rs to remember when selecting an activity: relevant, relatable, and realizable.


This one probably feels like a no-brainer: but, your activities should be relevant to your class, your units, and the topic at hand.

If you teach biology, it wouldn’t make much sense to use a physics activity as your first activity. Likewise, if you are learning about density in chemistry class, it wouldn’t make much sense for your first activity to be related to reaction rates.

Select a first activity that feels like a natural choice for your class and your content. Don’t force it. If you’re not sure, use the filters that we just learned about. Or, reach out to our team in the chat; we would be glad to steer you towards a great first activity!


Did you know: Sometime around age 12 and continuing into adulthood, most people build on their concrete reasoning and expand into abstract thinking.

Why does that matter for us? If the activity isn’t something relatable to our students, they may not be able to abstract the understanding. For example, if your students know nothing about rockets, they won’t have a point of reference to discuss rockets. So, using a first activity that focuses on rockets may not be suitable for those students.

Choose a first activity that is a simple phenomenon or one that you have discussed with your students. If you REALLY love an activity that uses a more unique concept, plan to introduce that experience to your students before the activity. You can do this through modeling, reading, or videos.


Ever notice that every product has a "Quick Start" Guide? (Even we do!) This is because the more time we spend on something new, the less we want to use it.

Your first activity shouldn’t take forever. Select a first activity that you can realistically complete within a single class session.

When planning, assume your students will work a little slower than normal. Select an activity that can be completed in 30 minutes OR modify an activity so that you are only completing a small portion of it the first time. This will allow time to learn the software and reduce the panic of a big activity.

Trick #3: My Five Rules for New Tech

Rule #1: The Rule of Five

For effective use in your classroom, you need to limit your trained tools to only *FIVE* resources.

Rule #2: Onboard Your Students, Just Like You

Social media, video games, phone apps - they all have onboarding. That’s why our kids are good at them. 

Rule #3: A Balanced Unit Plan is Healthiest

Do not over- or under-use technology in your classroom. Find your sweet spot and stay there.

Rule #4: Be Prepared… Because they won’t

If your activity hinges on tech, make sure you either have spare devices for when theirs is broken, spare chargers, and/or a paper-version or alternative.

Rule #5: Your Time =/= Their Time

Your time completing an activity will tend to be faster than their time.

Wanna learn more about these rules? We discussed these during our Starting Strong PD, which you can watch in full HERE!

If you are not yet a Pivot Interactives user, start your 30-day FREE trial and see what it is all about.