Dice, playing cards

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Laura Alfano

Feb 28, 2022, 11:36:43 AM2/28/22
to Professors at Play
Sharon asked about using dice, playing cards, wheels, spinners, timers, and so on. I think this deserves a new thread.

  • Points - If a group is the first to get a hand up to answer a question and answers it correctly, a representative rolls a die or dice to get points for the team. You can change it up by ruling that if they roll snake eyes, the team loses their points and starts over.
  • To group students - If 6 groups are needed, the number rolled determines which group the students is in. Once a group becomes full, that number is no longer available and students must continue rolling until they get a number of a group with open slots. If there are 2 groups, 1, 2, and 3 would go to group 1. 4, 5, and 6 would go to group 2, and so on.
  • Determine which question(s) students will answer - Once students are grouped, have them roll a die or the dice to determine the question they will answer. You could have as many as twelve questions.
  • Determine order of presentations - Students roll die or dice to determine which order in which their presentation will be given. 
  • Determine roles - In group work, determine roles students will take (facilitator, recorder, presenter, etc.) by having them roll a die. For debates or other activities that need a leader, have students roll the dice. The low number (or high number) is the leader. Or they roll twice and the average score is what they use to determine who fills the roll.
  • NOTE: I always carried dice in my pocket for spontaneous play.

Playing cards:
  • Points - Can be used in the same way as dice listed above. Also, you can have the teams draw cards to get the best "hand." Determine what that will be (4 of a kind, 4 in a row, the 5 lowest numbers, whatever - you might want to avoid the appearance of gambling, so it's best not to call these by poker names). You can build in discard rules. 
  • To group students - Use the same way as dice. To pair students, use two decks and have students find their partner (use only as many cards as needed for the number of students in class). 
  • Determine which question(s) students will answer - Use the same way as dice.
  • Determine order of presentations - Use the same way as dice.
  • Determine roles - Use the same way as dice.

  • Spinner that only had colors on it - Make cards that corresponded with the spinner colors with review questions on them. When student spin the wheel, they pull a card from that color stack to answer. To keep from embarrassing students, give them 5 minutes with their notes to answer. Then go over all of the answers as a group. You could do the same thing with playing card suits and have only black and red question cards.
  • Spinners with numbers (or monetary amounts) could be used in all of the ways dice and playing cards are used.
  • Spinners take time to prepare and are harder to transport. Plus, you could do the same thing with dice or playing cards.
  • To determine who will answer a question - Set the timer for 5, 8, 10, 12 seconds, whatever, but keep the time fairly short and vary it so that students don't know when the timer will go off. Have them pass an object around, either from person to person in seating order or by throwing a nerf ball around. When the timer goes off, whoever has the ball has to answer a question. Use a "pass" option so that students who don't know an answer can pass the question to someone whose name they know. If a question is passed twice, the third student can "pass" the question to the instructor so that the activity moves on.
  • Name that tune type of activity - Give groups or pair a question to answer. They determine how long it will take to answer the questions correctly. If they do so, they win points. If not, another group gets the opportunity to answer.

Receptionist bells:
  • To determine who answers a question - Much like family feud, groups send a representative to the front of the room where an equal number of "ding" bells (my name for them) await. Ask a question. The ringer group in the front can't ring the bell until a hand goes up from their team or group. Choose that team to answer the question immediately. If they answer incorrectly, the next team has an opportunity to do so.
  • To indicate a group is done - Have student work on questions in a group. When they are done, someone runs to the front to ring the bell. Go over the questions. Anyone in the class can answer questions in the class discussion.
Game boards:
Any gameboard or game can be adapted for use. It's also easy to make your own gameboard. Your institution may have a lamination machine so that you can make it withstand wear and tear. 

Does anyone have other ways to use these types of things?

Laura Alfano, J.D., M.Ed.
440 Twin Ridge Road
Warrior, AL 35180

Karrin Lukacs

Mar 1, 2022, 10:01:58 AM3/1/22
to Professors at Play
Hi Laura,

I'm not sure I have any ideas to add*, but I wanted to take a moment to say that I appreciate you sharing such a comprehensive list! (Plus, I have to side that your side note of "I always carry dice in my pocket" made me smile.) You have inspired me to offer a PD session on how to use these items, so THANK YOU for that. :-)

Take care,

*I have used cards for random groups in another way: Students draw, then arrange themselves in order of their card's face value, then I "clump" them by 3 or 4 starting with the beginning (or the end) of the line. 

N Didicher

Mar 1, 2022, 11:05:04 AM3/1/22
to Professors at Play
I use playing cards for jigsaw puzzle groups. That is, I have students get into groups of four (usually with one group of three or five left over) and I give each member of the group a card with a different suit on it (doubling one suit if it’s a group of five). At the end of their task, students then rearrange by forming groups with all hearts or all clubs, etc., and teach/share with their new group what their first one came up with. Alternately, I can do the same thing with four colours of sticky notes and have them stick their colours to their foreheads when it comes time to form new groups. However, this disadvantages students with visual challenges more—with the cards, people will also be calling out “where are my diamonds? Diamonds over here!” as well as holding up their cards, where the colours on the foreheads tends to be quieter as a process.


Mar 2, 2022, 5:26:03 PM3/2/22
to Laura Alfano, Professors at Play
Laura, these are really great!
Just reading these ideas can get teachers thinking about various changes or tweaks to your "study" tools.
One could assume that if students were given these VERY same lists with ideas, they could begin to come up with their own set of rules for a potential game to be used to study for their upcoming VOCAB assessment.
By allowing students choice and voice we can get that needed "by-in" right away as they begin to choose their game rules and norms.
Fun post.

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Maha Bali

Jul 12, 2022, 12:39:51 PM7/12/22
to Professors at Play
Fyi - start of a previous thread on the topic!

Maha Bali, PhD
Professor of Practice, Center for Learning and Teaching
*** My working hours may not be your working hours. Please do not feel obligated to reply outside of your normal work schedule ***


Karrin Lukacs

Jul 12, 2022, 1:23:19 PM7/12/22
to Maha Bali, Professors at Play
OF COURSE, the one place I didn't think to look. Thanks, Maha!


Karrin Lukacs, PhD  she | her
hear how my name is pronounced


Transformative Teaching and Learning

Professor, Curriculum and Instruction

Set up an appointment with Karrin.

540.665.4698 | www.su.edu

Shenandoah University

1460 University Dr., Winchester, VA 22601

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