Talking Tokens Engage!

Submitted by Peter Turner on

Two of my hybrid EDU classes this semester were challenging me to actively engage my students, especially when involved in group tasks or assignments. Collaborative groups expert Spencer Kagan recommends, among a variety of strategies, the use of Talking Tokens. Each student is given 3 tokens (I use paper clips from a box in the middle of each table). As they talk, ask a question, give a suggestion, etc., they put a token back in the box. When they are out of tokens, they cannot talk until everyone else in their group is also out. Then, the process begins again. This helps eliminate typical collaborative group obstacles such as one student dominating, or others slacking off. 

Prior to implementing this strategy, students were polled (on a 1 – 5, with 5 being most positive) as to whether or not group participation was equitably distributed between members (2.5), and whether they thought groups were effective (2.3). Post implementation of Talking Tokens, ratings were a 4.8 (equal participation) and 4.9 (effective groups). Finally, students, in discussing time on task, all agreed that class time on task was 100% for this activity.

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Average: 5 (7 votes)


Becky Baranowski Mon, 09/19/2016 - 3:41pm

I really like this idea - I have always stuggled with controling who does all the talking.  I think I will try this in my classes this week.  

Heather Muns Mon, 09/19/2016 - 3:52pm

Love it!  I'm going to use this.  

Rene Willekens Mon, 09/19/2016 - 4:24pm

This is a simple yet extremely effective strategy.  The one thing that wasn’t clear to me is the pre-strategy question.  Were the students evaluating group work in your class or group work in general? If they were rating previous group interaction in your class, the increase in equity and effectiveness is truly amazing.

Reynaldo Rivera Mon, 09/19/2016 - 4:59pm

Pete. Great Idea! It is always challenging to do group assignments and have equitable participation. This is a very simple, yet effective way of ensuring that happens.

Catherine Cochran Tue, 09/20/2016 - 8:55am

Great idea for  collaborative group work!  This is great activity that captures the different learning tendencies:  visual, auditory, and kinesthetic!

Teri Graham Tue, 09/20/2016 - 9:21am


Thank you for sharing this idea.  We have a group of math faculty that have been implementing cooperative learning activities since last year and this will be a wonderful addition to our "tool belt".  It seems simple yet effective and it is obvious from your results that the students appreciated it.

Peter Turner Tue, 09/20/2016 - 11:48am

Yes, Rene, they were evaluating group done in prior weeks in my class. These two classes have been particularly difficult to energize . . . it happens some times, as we all know. Talking Tokens trukly helped to bring the energy back. Now they are even laughing at (some) of my jokes!

Areatha Jones Sat, 09/24/2016 - 11:01am

This is excellent. I will try this in my class.