“White Snow, Yellow Snow” and Crumpled Paper. New Ideas for Class Discussion

Last modified date

I was listening to NPR’s All Things Considered yesterday, and I heard a wonderful story about ways to invite introverted students to share their thinking in class. As an introvert myself, I appreciated these discussion strategies to make space for students who don’t feel comfortable speaking up in class. This piece focused on a 9th-grade classroom, but I think the strategies are applicable to the higher-ed classroom as well. I wanted to share them here.

“White Snow, Yellow Snow”

All students are given a white index card and a yellow index card. During the discussion, students hold up their white card or their yellow card. A white card means you have something new to say, or fresh ground to cover. A yellow card means you have something else to add to the discussion, but “someone’s been there already.” The yellow cards help students connect to what their peers have already said and help the instructor keep track of the flow of the conversation. The instructor will also occasionally call on a student holding up a white card when the time is right for something new to be added to the conversation.

Crumpled Paper

This same instructor shares a second discussion strategy. Before class, students provide a written response on a discussion board in their learning management system. During class, the instructor asks the class a question and has students get out a blank piece of paper. The instructor sets a timer and invites students to review their peers’ responses in Canvas and to write their answers to the question on their piece of paper.

When the timer goes off, students crumple up the piece of paper and keep it at their desks. The class begins the discussion, with the students having already had a few moments to gather their thoughts. After a few minutes, the instructor invites the students who have already said something to throw their paper into a basket at the front of the room. Then they repeat the discussion and paper tossing for a few rounds before class is over.

After class, the instructor collects the pieces of paper from the students who didn’t throw their paper into the basket because they didn’t speak up. This provided a way for the instructor to still hear what they had to say.

Listen to this story to learn more from the students and instructor about the value of these discussion strategies.

Christine Moskell