Making Card Talk Interesting

Sometimes teachers will be like, “Card Talk gets boring fast.”  First things first, if anything in a CI classroom feels boring, my advice is to stop doing it and move on to another activity.  Our job, from a purely language acquisition standpoint, is to simply provide comprehensible, interesting interactions in the language, so that students can take in contextualized linguistic data from which their brains construct, without any conscious effort on their part, a mental representation of the language.  This internal linguistic system is what then, in turn, drives their eventual ability to produce their own messages in the language.

So, Card Talk is not a requirement for this process to happen.  It is simply a “container” or a vehicle for delivering interesting messages.  And since the information that is being discussed is the information that the students provided themselves, the chances of the messages being somewhat interesting to that same group of students is higher than if we were, say, discussing the Periodic Table of the Elements (though to some kids, THAT is way more fascinating than learning about their classmates).

One way to make Card Talk more interesting is to involve more of the class in the discussion.  This not only makes it more about “Us As a Class” and less about “Kenya as a Person”, but it also quickly gives us a lot more information to discuss.

I quickly transition from one person to the whole class. After just basically stating that Felicia likes X and just acting generally sorta amazed at her awesomeness, I ask her to look at the class. I ask the class to raise their hand if they also like X. I tell her to look at the class with their hands raised.  I then ask them to raise their hand if they ADORE X and if they hate X. We can usually have fun with this for a while, especially if Felicia is an expressive student of good will who will look at the class with her emotions visible.  (I do not ASK student to express emotions, but some of them are naturally more expressive than others.  If so, it is fun to be like, “Class Felicia is happy!  Cheeseburgers are popular in our class!” or “Felicia is sad.  Five people hate cheeseburgers.”)

I tend to pre-pick cards (in my mind; I leave them on the floor till I “pretend” to notice the card that I PRE-SELECTED) that have to do with each other. Like two kids who like traveling. Or a kid who likes cats and one who likes dogs. Like, either the same or close to the same, or “opposites within a category” like coffee versus tea. This quickly leads to some good collections and comparisons. I don’t ask a ton of individual PQA type Qs generally such as “Felicia where do you eat cheeseburgers?” or “Felicia do you eat cheeseburgers on the moon or on Earth?”. It gets kinda boring unless the kid/topic is super-and-I’m-talking-abnormally-interesting interesting.

I save the Qs for Write n Discuss where I usually add a couple of details in.  I will just be writing the summary of the card talk, in which I try to include references to what the hands-raised poll of the class’s opinion was — for instance, “Felicia likes cheeseburgers and the majority of the class likes them too,” and I will then stop and ask Felicia, “Hey, what is your favorite restaurant?” or “Do you put mustard on them?” and add that detail into the writing.

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