DEBDEN MINDS : Trade Cards; more than just a pile of good ideas.


In the blog #LOVEOFLEARNING : Where has all the active learning gone? The demise of some great pedagogy? via @wordpressdotcom

I argued that teaching “techniques” were of great importance in developing teaching. Furthermore I suggested that “Active learning” was part of an effective “arsenal” which teachers can use to engage and challenge students.  There is no “one way” to teach and a well crafted lecture, or independent reading and “book work” is just as valuable as active learning techniques. “It aint what you do it’s the way that you do it” principle (for more on this idea see via @wordpressdotcom ) But if there is no “one way” to teach, where should we concentrate our efforts? Well on the things which make a difference. The Trade Cards can help with this.

With this in mind let’s consider  how you can use the techniques in the “Trade Cards” effectively. We are now a term into 2015.What things have worked and what things have been less than successful? Perhaps more importantly what new things have you tried? Teaching is a continual realignment of practice. How can we continue to realign? Look at some new techniques, try them out and then talk about them! This is where the “Trade Cards” come in handy. I know they may seem just like a list of techniques, and in many ways they are, but if you look a bit closer they also help develop your mind set and the mind set of your students. Moreover, if used correctly they are linked to the BIG FOUR, and will could potentially have a huge impact on student achievement. Let’s have a look in a bit more detail at 3 of the Trade Cards to see how effective they can be.

Trade card 2

Rally Robin is a classic. But it is rarely seen, yet it is so easy to do. It can be incredibly effective if done properly. First of all prep students fully first. Explain what they are going to be doing and why. It is a good ideas to have students clear the desks of anything but one piece of paper (A3 if possible – make a deal of it) and two different coloured pens.   Have the instructions ready on the board, then go. Stand back, watch, and watch some more. The key to this is to let students teach each other, resist the temptation to get involved. Time the Rallying, give it a minimum of 5 minutes – they will get into it, just don’t interrupt. If students genuinely run out of ideas, swop them around. Once complete spend time praising pairs that have done it well, show their work off, ask more questions. This is a great way to engage, and use the power of Peer tuition, it is also a superb AFL strategy as you can quickly survey the lists.


Developing students’ abilities to think “Meta-cognitively” and self – regulate is one of the BIG FOUR when attempting to raise student achievement. This technique is, quick but not simple – at least not simple for students. Give them a prescribed number of words to use in order to explain something. The trick is to make sure that you give them time to draft and redraft, making sure they get exactly the right number of words.   You can put in a “tolerance” say of ten words then compare students’ explanations to see on balance which one is better. This creates thinking and competition.

hot seat

A firm favourite; but again somewhat out of favour. It’s easy and the benefits are bigger than you might first consider:

  • Great way of assessing that students understanding plus the understanding of the class
  • Slows questioning/ response down – a known way of increasing understanding
  • It’s engaging! It engages all the class in questioning (if you do it correctly)

The key to making this successful is to make sure it becomes regular and make sure the questions you are asking are well thought out. In addition “control the crowd” by giving the students asking the questions time to formulate them. Give them guidance on this, for example divide the class up into four sections, each section has to two questions from a different topic. We could go on, the key to all of these “techniques” is that although they are easy to implement they can be done badly at any point. Consider Hot seating; students come in, one is picked to be in the hot seat, the rest of the students are ill prepared as is the one in the hot seat. Teacher gives up, techniques never used again.

In another example which is less stark let’s consider Trade Card 9 (Do it in 30,20,10,5) for whatever reason students are not in the mood for such thinking and their attempts are poor. Teacher gives up. This could have worked perfectly at a different time. The key to many techniques is that students become “trained” on how to do them. If the technique is unsuccessful at firs, try again. Prepare differently. In addition we forget them! We need reminding of their potential and more importantly so do the students.

So, take a Trade Card, use it, adapt and then talk about it by trading it with someone else!


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