Talking Chips

Using Talking Chips active activities to facilitate discussion in a classroom.
Time and Effort
Instructor Prep Time Low
Student Activity Time Low
Instructor Response Time Low
Complexity of Activity Low
Room Considerations Movable tables and chairs


Talking Chips have students participate in a group discussion, surrendering a token each time they speak. The purpose of this activity is to ensure equitable participation within groups by regulating how often each group member is allowed to speak.


Use it when you want...

  • To emphasize the importance of full and even participation within a group,
  • To help students discuss controversial issues, to encourage quiet students to participate, or
  • To solve communication and process problems, such as dominating or clashing group members.

What students will need

  • Some kind of token or object like poker chips or paperclips.


The following workflow is meant to guide how to facilitate a Talking Chips learning activity within a classroom.


  • Determine a question or problem for group discussion.
  • Determine how groups will be formed.
  • Identify the kind of tokens to be used in the activity.


  • Form student groups. 
  • Give each student four or five tokens that will serve as permission to share, contribute, or debate in the conversation.
  • Ask students to participate equally in the group discussion, specifying that they will surrender a token as they contribute comments.
  • When all students have contributed to the discussion, and everyone has used their tokens, the activity is done.


  • Review the outcomes of the activity.

Accessibility and Room Considerations

  • None

Technical Documentation

  • None


Example 1

An instructor in Introduction to Social Welfare wanted students to be able to apply sociological theory to explain the development of social services from 1960 to 1990. Students should be able to discuss the pros and cons of various social programs established to address problems such as unwanted pregnancies. He used Talking Chips to facilitate this conversation. Groups of students were asked to develop a list that critiques several programs provided by the instructor. Each student was given five chips, and groups are given 20 minutes. When all the chips were spent, the group stopped discussing and focused on finalizing their list. Students handed in their lists with the names of each student in the group. The instructor reviewed the lists after class. In the next class session, he shared the results and provided any critique or addressed gaps in the students' work (Barkley 171).

Example 2

A professor in Calculus I decides to have students form groups that will persist for the entire semester. These groups were given 20 minutes in each class session to work on reviewing the results of homework sets. Two weeks into the semester, she noticed that while most groups were working well, a few were not. One group, in particular, had issues with dominating members who wouldn't let the other members talk.


Barkley, Elizabeth F. et al. Collaborative Learning Techniques: A Handbook For College Faculty. Wiley, 2014. pp. 170-174.

Keywordstalking chips, discussions, active learningDoc ID104154
OwnerTimmo D.GroupInstructional Resources
Created2020-07-20 11:15:11Updated2024-04-16 15:34:18
SitesCenter for Teaching, Learning & Mentoring
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