Monthly Archives: November 2012


This is an activity I observed and assisted with, but it was so interesting I wanted to write about it anyway.  Last night in our master’s level class, Trends and Principles of the Counseling Profession, we were slated to cover multiculturalism.  Now, the topic itself is very interesting, but the powerpoint slides that came with our textbook were very long and very, very dry.

So we decided to play cards.  We split the class into 3 groups of 4-5 students.  You can do slightly bigger groups, or increase the number if you have a large class.  Each group was given a deck of cards and rules of the game. What the students didn’t know is that each set of rules was slightly different!  They  had 5 minutes to practice and learn the rules, then we took all the rules away and instructed them to play without speaking.  They could gesture and draw, but not spell out or otherwise indicate numbers.  Once they had finished that hand, the winner was told to move to another group.  The next round was played with one new member.

What happened next was very interesting.  We heard and saw several frustrated, confused, and wildly gesturing players.  Others did not seem fazed.  After that round completed, we again moved the winners and played again.  This time they seemed more resigned.  We suspected they had picked up on the fact that they were given different rules, and had seemed to adjust to it, so we stopped the game.

We took about an hour to process it.  Many students knew immediately what had happened, but it was very interesting to hear how they responded to the silent misunderstandings.  We talked about what it was like to be the “new person” who “didn’t know the rules,” and how some felt suspicious of the majority, frustrated or just plain out of place.  We also talked about the efforts made by the majority players to make the new player feel welcome.  We talked about implicit rules of a culture, and how that affects group dynamics.  Adjectives used by the students to describe the activity included “insightful”, and “clever.”

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Statistics, Pink Balls and Buzzers

When planning for our next class, master’s level Trends and Principles of the Counseling Profession, the professor of record told me that she just couldn’t see delivering a straight lecture on such dry material.  (We had planned to cover research and assessment that evening).  She also told me she was not feeling very creative…but I was.  I remembered an activity I had done previously where I placed the students in a circle, had them throw a ball to a classmate, then the classmate would have to answer the question.  Then that person would throw the ball to the next person, and so on.

On the day of class we show up with a deck of flashcards with research terminology, a pink ball and a buzzer.  We weren’t sure exactly how we were going to use all of these things, but the professor felt pretty strongly about using the buzzer.  And I was still feeling creative…

So, I put the students in a circle, handed one of the the ball and asked them to pick a card.  Then, they threw the ball and the classmate who caught it had to define the term on the card.  If not, then that person was to describe one thing they had learned from the chapter on research, but they couldn’t repeat anything that had already been said.  If they still couldn’t answer, they got buzzed, they threw the ball to someone else and the game continued.

Students’ reaction.  Up until this point, we had never done a class activity.  Needless to say, the students were a bit anxious and confused at first, but then were smiling and laughing as they started the activity.  One student said at the end of the evening that it was a class they would never forget.  Nobody was bored, and they all learned their terminology.  Unfortunately, part way through the game it became evident that over half the class did not complete the reading assignment!  While some may argue that it was unfair to put the students on the spot like that, and I do think the first student to admit it was a bit embarrassed, I think it was a valuable lesson to all of them.  Come to class prepared, because you never know if you may catch a pink ball!

What I would do differently.  Since I was co-teaching the class, although I had initiated the activity I did not have complete control over it.  The instructor of record is a very knowledgeable and talented teacher, who likes to explain things in a lot of detail and process student’s reactions.  This equated to a lot of time of students sort of standing around restlessly.  For this to work properly, it has to be FAST.

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