Talking Chips

Facilitating Talking Chips active learning activities in physically-distanced learning spaces

Time and Effort

Instructor Prep TimeLow
Student Activity TimeLow
Instructor Response TimeLow
Complexity of ActivityLow


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


The following workflow is meant as guidance for how you can facilitate a Talking Chips learning activity within a classroom with a physical distancing layout.


  • Determine a question or problem for group discussion.
  • Create a scorecard for each group in Google Docs.
  • Create a Zoom session in which students will work collaboratively.


  • Form student groups. Note: Consider limiting the group size to 2-3 students. Groups larger than 2-3 people are encouraged to use text-based chat features instead of speaking to one another to reduce the noise volume in the room and to prevent shouting across long distances between students.
  • Assign a scorekeeper for each group. This person will place an X next to each member after they participate in the discussion. Each person is allowed five Xs.
  • Share the method students will use to work collaboratively on the activity.
    • Option 1: Students speak with one another across the empty seats.
    • Option 2: Groups follow a link for their scorecard in Google Docs.
    • Option 3: Direct students to the Canvas course space and into the Zoom session. Create breakout rooms spaces for each group. Students use the chat tool for their discussion. 
  • Ask students to participate equally in the group discussion, specifying that as they contribute comments, they will get an X placed next to their name by the scorekeeper.
  • When all students have contributed to the discussion and everyone has five Xs next to their name, the activity is done.


  • Review the outcomes of the activity.

Accessibility and Room Considerations

  • Classroom furniture is not to be rearranged to facilitate activities. If you need a different general assignment classroom to meet your instructional needs, contact your curricular representative.
  • If students are to move around the room during an activity, consider the mobility, location, equipment, and furniture needs of all students.
  • The physical distance between students (particularly in large lecture halls) may make it difficult for students to hear one another when they are asked to speak.
  • This same physical distance may increase the noise level in the room as students try to speak to one another. This noise level may cause issues for some students. To this end, it is recommended that group size be limited to pairs (ideally) or triads at most. Activities requiring larger group sizes should utilize text-based chat solutions like those found in Zoom.
  • The technologies recommended here should meet most campus accessibility requirements. However, you should check with the McBurney Disability Resources Center for guidance on any specific accommodations for your students.

Technical Documentation


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

See Also:

Keywords:talking chips, discussions, active learning, remote instruction, physical distance   Doc ID:104154
Owner:Timmo D.Group:Remote Instruction
Created:2020-07-20 11:15 CDTUpdated:2021-06-29 09:54 CDT
Sites:Remote Instruction
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