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Deal the Deck

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When I have trouble getting even participation out of a culturally mixed class, I pull out a standard deck of cards and distribute them to the class. Students must use a card each time they speak in class and only speak when they use a card. The object is to use up all the cards before the end of class. Loquacious students quickly spend their cards while the shy types are left as the only ones who can talk. Once spent, they can only get more after the entire class has used up their quota. The talkers get frustrated at first, but I sometimes allow them to ask a question of any students holding a card. Not only does it force talkers to listen more and listeners to speak up, but I have also found it lends itself well to bridging cross-cultural gaps in culturally mixed classes. It works especially well in academic ESL classes with East Asian, European, and Arab students in the mix.

Variations include ascribing a particular rhetorical function to face cards, wild cards, or cards of a suit, such as "King must challenge/Jack must agree with/Queen must refute another student's comment", "Ace must paraphrase another student's comment" .

Niki Mantas [email protected]
Whatcom Community College, Bellingham, WA

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