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Index Card Exercises

I use Index Cards a LOT in my classroom.  I like them because they are cheap (I buy them at the $1 store), easily and quickly distributed in class, set an expectation of the quantity of information required and are easy to review, assess and grade (if necessary).

Further, by limiting the quantity of information, you are automatically advocating for quality of  information.   I once had a beloved professor who said " If you can't summarize your hypothesis or idea on a business card (much smaller than an index card) - you better rethink your idea!"  In my classes,  reading notes are always expected to be submitted on an index card.

An index card submitted in class with the student's name on also provides a way to take attendance or gauge participation --- although sometimes the anonymity encourages honest questions and feedback (see 'Muddiest Point' and 'Stop Start Continue' below)

THINK-PAIR-SHARE (Millis, Lyman, & Davidson, 1995) this exercise often begins with information
provided initially through a reading assignment, a short lecture, a video, etc. The instructor then poses a question and students are instructed to individually reflect (i.e., think) about the question and to note their response in writing on an index card. Students then turn to their neighbor and share their responses. This can end the sharing or the pair may turn to another pair and share again in groups of four. Provide sufficient time for each participant to speak with their partner.  Once the students have 'paired' and discussed their answers (found an ally), they will be more willing to share their ideas and responses with the entire class.  You can now call upon groups to share what they discussed with everyone. You can determine the total time required for the activity by limiting the number of 'pairs' invited to 'share' their responses with the whole class. Think-Pair-Share is a collaborative learning strategy that (1) is effective in very large classes, (2) encourages students to be reflective and think critically about course content, (3) improves communication skills by allowing students to privately formulate their thoughts, and garner allies before sharing or speaking publicly with others, and (4) can foster higher-order thinking skills.

PRECONCEPTION, MISCONCEPTION & POST-CONCEPTION.  Often I will start a class asking students what they know about 'X'.  X could be anything: diversity, racism, evolution, capitalism...  I ask them to write this knowledge down on the index card.  It may then go into a THINK, PAIR, SHARE --- but more often, not.  I want this to be a reflexive exercise.  Towards the end of a class I will ask them to revisit what they have written, and reflect on their misconceptions or knowledge of the concept after learning and discussion.  I may collect these cards up to assess their learning.

I sometime distribute colored cards to automatically assign discussion or work groups; i.e. all the greens cards work together on X, all the yellow cards work together on Y,...
STOP, START CONTINUE:  This is a great way to great interim and/or immediate feedback on how you are doing as a teacher.  Have the student complete an index card (either including their name or anonymously) with the headings/prompts STOP START and CONTINUE (and some people add TWEAK) 

MUDDIEST POINT or QUESTION or PARAPHRASE THE CONCEPT or MAIN POINT OF THE CLASS TODAY (sometimes called a One Minute Paper).  Often I will ask the students to take a few minutes in class time to reflect on the muddiest point of the class (most confusing concept), a question that they are thinking about (but maybe too afraid to ask), or paraphrase the concept we have been learning in their own words and/or the main points they took away from the class.  These can be either bullet pointed lists, or a one minute paper with 'proper' writing. We may then use these cards as the start of a THINK, PAIR, SHARE exercise, but more often I will have to students drop the cards into a fish bowl (I have a large glass punch bowl I use for this purpose) and work through the cards collectively in a kind of anonymous question and answer.   If we do not have time to cover all the cards, I will review the contents after class and cover the most frequently ask questions or points the very next time we meet.  And just as an FYI: when ever we do a muddiest point exercise in class I always use the same image of a pig on my slides.

CREATE A MULTIPLE CHOICE QUESTION  This is a wonderful exercise - especially because it has a tangible outcome --- the student's efforts could be used in a real exam or quiz!  When I assign this exercise to the students I explain that they should aim high on Blooms Taxonomy (synthesis of ideas rather than regurgitation of facts).  It also highlights to them how hard it is to write a good quiz question.  A mentor of mine at CIRTL said the following about this exercise which he tried in class:  "I tried this as a group activity and it seemed to work great. I used 4 student questions on my exam and provided all of the student questions as a study handout (uncorrected)."