Office of the Faculty Teaching Fellow

Games for Thinking

Think-Pair-Share Variation (Hans Gruenig, Tulane)

If I wanted to inspire students to engage in collaborative inquiry and discussion, instead of asking, "So what do you think about X?" (and being met with silence), I would ask students to get out a piece of paper and write a paragraph on what they thought about X; then to pair and discuss X; then follow up with a class discussion of X.  Rudimentary, perhaps -- but it made a terrific difference in terms of engagement, quality of discussion, and -- dare I say -- learning!

Thinking Colors (Lesley Wallace, eInstructional Designer, Bellingham Technical College)

To hold a lively discussion form groups of students who must assume a certain perspective and not by choice.  Once material has been viewed, have students propose their thoughts according to the perspective assigned to them. Rotating perspectives and using this strategy over and over again is a fantastic way of fostering deep critical thinking. (adapted from Edward de Bono, Six Thinking Hats)

  • Neutrality (White) - considering purely what information is available, what are the facts?
  • Feeling (Red) - instinctive gut reaction or statements of emotional feeling (but not any justification)
  • Negative judgment (Black) - logic applied to identifying flaws or barriers, seeking mismatch
  • Positive Judgment (Yellow) - logic applied to identifying benefits, seeking harmony
  • Creative thinking (Green) - statements of provocation and investigation, seeing where a thought goes

Save the Last Word for Me (Lesley Wallace, eInstructional Designer, Bellingham Technical College)

Another way to fortify discussion-

  1. Create groups of at least 3 or 4.
  2. Each participant silently identifies what s/he considers to be the most significant idea addressed in the article and thinks of a question to pose to the group.
  3. When the group is ready, each member identifies the point in the article that s/he found to be most significant and reads it out loud to the group and asks their question.
  4. The person who is posing the question says nothing about why s/he chose that particular point while the others respond.
  5. The first participant then states why s/he chose that part of the material and responds to his/her own question based on what s/he heard from the group dialogue.
  6. The same pattern is followed until all four members of the group have had a chance to have “the last word.”

Fish Bowl (Lesley Wallace, eInstructional Designer, Bellingham Technical College)

 Break students into groups of 3-5.  Choose as many discussion topics as you have groups.  Make directions to the students simple but complete: (possible description below)

  1. Over the next few weeks we will be using a FISHBOWL strategy in our discussion threads.  In the FISHBOWL strategy, one group will be responsible for conducting an online discussion around the reading/class materials for the first few days of the week (until Wednesday). All other students will be responsible for reading the materials and in addition, observing the FISHBOWL conversation, silently.
  2. After Wednesday, the rest of the class not involved in the initial discussion will be given guided questions to use to reflect on the discussion itself and then they will post their reflections on a follow up discussion thread.
  3. All students will also be responsible for commenting on the reflection posts.

Grading will be:  FISHBOWL discussion students’ points _______
Reflection students’ points________

Overview and Objectives:
A Fishbowl activity allows students to practice a skill under peer review and audience. In the fishbowl activity, a group of students are chosen to discuss a given topic. The rest of the class watches, listens, or reads the transcript of the discussion. A secondary discussion occurs concerning the outcomes and process of the first. There can be several primary goals of a fishbowl activity. The goals can actually differ based upon whether the student is inside or outside of the fishbowl as well.

During and after performing the Fishbowl activity, students will...

  • If in the fishbowl
    • demonstrate their knowledge of topic A...
    • provide a logical argument for a position concerning topic A...
  • If observing the fishbowl
    • evaluate the arguments presented by others...
    • reflect on new insights provided by the discussion.
  • Everyone
    • develop a higher awareness of the concept...
    • have an increased understanding of various viewpoints...

Take a Stand!   (Bunny Paine-Clemes, California State University, Maritime)

The instructor calls out a controversial general statement, such as, "Marijuana should be legalized."  Students must stand by one of these signs: "AGREE, DISAGREE, STRONGLY AGREE, STRONGLY DISAGREE."  The instructor calls on students and asks them to explain their point of view.  Other rules are as follows: wait to be recognized, don't make long speeches, and don't do ping-pong exchanges back and forth; involve everyone.  Afterward students write anonymous completion sentences to "I learned that," "I was surprised that," and "I was pleased/displeased that."  Students pass the papers around, and then the instructor calls on each person to read the student's paper that has been passed to him.

A self-awareness building modification:  For creativity class, I post sheets with the names and pictures of Gardner's 10 intelligences.  Half the students (Group A) stand by intelligences that are easy for them.  The other students (Group B) go to signs with intelligences they're weak in and interview the experts.  After about 7 minutes, the groups switch, and the experts become the seekers.  This can be done with any sort of skills--research, lab, writing, etc.  I also do this exercise with the stages of creativity.

What do You Know? !   (Bunny Paine-Clemes, California State University, Maritime)

Post sheets of paper with different topics and have students go to sheets and write what they know.  I plan to use it for Ancient Egypt, with topics like mummies, pharaohs, pyramids, etc.  After we discuss the sheets, students will write down and turn in anonymously what they'd still LIKE to know.  I'll type the sheets into a word document and post it online, then devote the next class to what they'd like to know.  I've seen this technique modeled by others; it helps give the students ownership of the material.

(Source:  an email exchange in the faculty developers’ listserv of Professional and Organizational Development Network, 8-21-09)