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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.

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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.



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.

  • He uses the first square in the top row for knowledge by having students write their spelling words three times each.
  • The second square across is comprehension; he has students show their understanding of the spelling pattern by having them write their spelling words in sentences.
  • The third square in the top row is for application.

    Students will show and apply skills by illustrating their spelling words.

  • For the first square in the second row, analysis, students are asked to write spelling words using a blue pen for vowels and a red pen for consonants.
  • The middle square, synthesis, requires students to invent a story using their spelling words.
  • For the third square in the middle row, students will evaluate their words by giving another student a spelling test using the words, then grading it.


Kotter will fill in the bottom row with activities that integrate other topics and subjects, such as creating a rhyme and assigning point values to letters and adding up values.

Tic-Tac-Toe Uses

Teachers, like Mr. Kotter, can use a tic-tac-toe board for many reasons. Like we saw with spelling words, they can be used to practice simple skills and reinforce understanding of content in any subject area. They can also be created to offer students who have mastered a skill or concept while the other students continue with instruction. They give students autonomy and choice in their learning. Finally, they can be used to assess students’ understanding after a concept has been taught.

Tic-tac-toe boards are not teaching tools themselves. Mr. Kotter never uses them to teach content or for busy work; they’re meant to reinforce, practice, and assess.

Students use them to show their understanding of learned skills as well as practice them after Mr. Kotter has introduced information. A board Mr. Kotter created for the book Charlotte’s Web included activities such as creating a collage to compare and contrast characters, imagining and writing an interview with a key character, or making a timeline of events in the book. All these activities can only happen after reading and teaching has taken place.

Lesson Summary

Teachers create tools to use in the classroom to keep students engaged in learning. They need to come up with ideas that allow students to practice and show their understanding of skills while making sure these activities are designed for different kinds of learners. The tic-tac-toe board is a method that does all this. Using different levels of understanding, teachers create a three-by-three grid – a total of nine squares – and insert activities into each. Students choose three activities that make ‘three in a row.’Teachers use the tic-tac-toe board to practice skills, reinforce content, challenge learners, or assess knowledge.

They should never use them as a stand-alone teaching tool but rather only after instruction has taken place.

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