Blacked-Out Sentences

One effective approach to adding interactivity to lectures involves requiring the participants to review what they heard and summarize the key points. This approach reinforces learning and improves recall.

Blacked-Out Sentences is a variation of another interactive lecture technique called Mixed-Up Sentences. Unlike the earlier version, this version reduces the workload on the facilitator and increases the workload on the participants. And we know that the person who works more learns more.


The participants work in teams to summarize the key points from a lecture in six sentences. Each team blacks out one of the summary sentences and gives the list to the next team. Team members now collaboratively attempt to figure out the sentence that has been blacked out.


To review the content of a lecture and to summarize the key points.


Minimum: 4

Maximum: Any number.

Best: 15 to 30, divided into teams of two to five.


About 45 minutes (depending on the length and complexity of the lecture)

Supplies and Equipment

  • Paper
  • Pencils or pens
  • Felt-tipped markers
  • Timer
  • Whistle


Make a lecture presentation. Begin with your regular presentation, encouraging the participants to take notes.

Organize the participants into teams. At the end of your presentation, organize the participants into one to five teams, each with two to five participants. Invite the team members to share their notes and review the key points from your lecture.

Write summary sentences. Ask each team to prepare a list of six sentences that summarize the key points from the lecture. Announce a 3-minute time limit for completing this task.

Ask the teams to black out one of the sentences. Invite the teams to copy one of the six sentences (selected at random) on another piece of paper. Distribute black markers with wide felt tips to each team. Ask the teams to black out the sentence they had copied earlier. Once this is done, ask each team to give its list of summary sentences (with one of them blacked out) to the next team. (The last team gives its list to the first team.)

Figure out the blacked out sentence. Ask each team to review the sentences in the list it received. Ask the team members to figure out the sentence that is now blacked out and write it on a piece of paper. Announce a 3-minute time limit.

Compare the sentences. At the end of 3 minutes, choose a team at random and ask it to read the sentence they had figured out. Now ask the team that created the original list to read the blacked-out sentence. Continue this process until every team has read the sentence they wrote.