Using Quotations to Prime Class Discussions

You can use a "Quote of the Day" to a) introduce a concept, b) inject some humor, or c) complete a class by asking "how does this quotation relate to what we did today?" Here's a suggestion of how you can use them to help students organize their thoughts in preparation for a class discussion.

You might, for example, have a quotation on the board when students arrive in class. Ask students to read and consider the quotation and prepare to share their ideas.

  1. THINK: Students write down their thoughts on how the quotation connects to the day's topic (2 minutes).
  2. PAIR: Students turn to a partner and exchange ideas (2 minutes).
  3. If you'd like, you can "Square the Pairs" by asking each pair to join with another pair. The "squares" discuss their ideas and identify one or two ideas that they think are particularly strong (4 minutes).
  4. SHARE: Each group then reports back to the class, which provides a starting point for a class discussion of the topic.

Some samples to get you started:

  • It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. – Aristotle
  • An education isn't how much you have committed to memory, or even how much you know. It's being able to differentiate between what you do know and what you don't. – Anatole France
  • Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. – Thomas Edison
  • There are truths on this side of the Pyrenees, which are falsehoods on the other. – Blaise Pascal
  • It is not enough for a man to know how to ride; he must know how to fall. – Mexican Proverb
  • Personally, I am always ready to learn, although I do not always like being taught. – Winston Churchill


To follow up on any of these ideas, please contact me at This Weekly Teaching Note was adapted from a contribution to the Teaching and Learning Writing Consortium sponsored by Western Kentucky University.

Emma Bourassa
Instructor, ESL Department
Thompson Rivers University