22 Power Cards to Revolutionize a Class Discussion


John Hardison & Mark Anthony as Power and Double Whammy Cards
John Hardison & Mark Anthony as Power and Double Whammy Cards

The excitement generated from the interactive learning structure I am about to reveal will definitely not be confused with the impact felt from the French and American Revolutions or the Civil Rights movement, but the student engagement and creative energy resulting from one of Studio 113’s non-traditional formats for class discussions was born out of a sort of rebellion.
It was a rebellion of the boring. A polite but honest rebellion of a trite and played-out structure for class discussions. Four years ago, our AP Language students had conjectured, argued, supported, and qualified an innumerable amount of analytical and persuasive prompts until their eyes were glazed over from a robotic and hypnotic form of class discussion…the one-hand-at-a-time method.
Don’t get me wrong. The students did not throw pens, put their heads down, or refuse to participate. Their increasingly lethargic expressions and uninspired answers said enough. The traditional model was not working. They needed a change. So, my colleague and I turned to some trusty characters and powerful forms of expression. How do characters like Santa, Yoda, Superman, and Socrates sound? What about powers labeled nose-to-nose, apps, sing, and resurrection? Sound boring?
Enter the twenty-two power cards to revolutionize a class discussion.

Revolutionary Battle: Gamifying Literary Analysis with 22 Power Cards

Titled “Revolutionary Battle” because of its resemblance to the way soldiers lined up just before firing against their enemies during the American Revolutionary War, this gamified approach to analyzing literature is tried-and-true. Although different in design from our original “Wax Museum” and “Voting Chips” learning models, the “Revolutionary Battle” produces a comparable and enthusiastic learning environment. Perhaps the only issue is one any teacher would surely welcome: how to manage so much student creativity and excitement. Simply let the assigned literature and standards, the twenty-two “Power Cards,” the seven “Double Whammy” cards, a trusty technology tool that serves as a backchannel, a couple of timers, and a scoring rubric manage all of the students’ energetic responses.

Revolutionary Battle: A Step-by-Step Process

Providing the Foundation-As always, the first step was to assign the standards and literature. For the examples shown in the embedded video below, our AP Language students were asked to analyze Lopate’s “Modern Friendships” and Tannen’s “Rapport-Talk and Report Talk.” Each team was asked to demonstrate a mastery level of understanding of one of the two essays by successfully defending any academic challenges or attacks from the opposing teams. Likewise, both teams defended one essay and attacked the other. Reading both essays was a must.
Drafting Teammates-While the remaining students began reading, two volunteer captains met in private with me to select their peers from a digital roster. As both captains took turns crafting their teams, I highlighted the students’ names to indicate the availability of the remaining students. Furthermore, I cautioned both captains to construct well-rounded teams. The anonymity of the draft was non-negotiable, and the order of the draft was not disclosed to the rest of the class.
Drafting the Power Cards-Immediately after selecting the teams, the two captains announced the teams, and both teams went to opposing locations to begin quietly reading the literature and plotting their game plans. Students were also asked to study the list of twenty-two “Power Cards” and seven “Double Whammy” cards. “Power Cards” allow students to demonstrate their knowledge in very creative ways, whereas the “Double Whammy” cards present disruptions to the opposing team or save teammates from struggling presentations. Both teams began the following day’s class by systematically picking their “Power Cards,” one per teammate. Although the seven “Double Whammy” cards may be selected at any time, they are considered to be held by each team and not just one individual. A total of three “Double Whammy” cards may be chosen, and the order they are selected in the draft could be detrimental to each team’s success. Picking too early will allow the opposing team to snatch up a strong “Power Card,” but picking too late may rule out a saving “Double Whammy” card. As with any draft, timing is everything. Want to see the result of using Photofunia to create all twenty-nine cards? Click here. For the complete list of cards and descriptions, please take a look at the PDF file embedded below or click here.

Preparing for Battle-The first task for both teams was to prepare for the opposing team’s attack by thoroughly reading and discussing the literature. This was usually completed in two class periods. The second task (usually homework) was to read the second piece of literature while formulating creative questions to test the other team’s knowledge. These questions, analytical and rhetorical in nature, were definitely of the AP Language level.
Beginning the Game-A coin flip quickly revealed the order of attack. The attacking team had thirty seconds to step onto our six-sided stage and begin delivering the question to the other team. Each question was repeated, and a specific “Power Card” from the opposing team was chosen. The defending team had two minutes to formulate a response. When the online timer buzzed, the defending team mounted the stage and answered the prompt. Afterwards, the two teams switched roles. Want to see it in action? Take a look at this embedded video.

Scoring the Rounds-Once both teams have attacked and defended, a score is recorded for each team per round. This score ranges from 1 to 5 (1=awful, 2=poor, 3=average, 4=good, 5=awesome) and takes into consideration the difficulty of the prompts. The game is completely over once all “Power Cards” have been exhausted. The “Double Whammy” cards, which may be submitted at any time, should be used before a team spends its last “Power Card.”
Keeping Students Engaged/Active After Performing-Once a student presented his response and his “Power Card” was defunct, he was asked to join our on-going back channel via Todaysmeet. On this backchannel, students continually discussed the answers delivered by their peers. The only way students will not be involved in the backchannel is if they are somehow brought back into the game by specific “Power Cards” or “Double Whammy” cards.
So, if you ever find your students staring back at you with numb eyes during a class discussion, remember the “Revolutionary Battle” learning structure from Studio 113. I promise it will energize a sedentary class of students by providing them with challenging and creative outlets to express their understanding of the assigned content. The result will be a powerful class involving active learners and a reinvigorated, facilitating teacher. In our classroom, that’s called a double whammy.
Want to experience these interactive learning structures and more? Join me for a three-hour workshop at ISTE 13.

John Hardison

John Hardison is an interactive facilitator of learning and blended learning specialist at East Hall High School (Studio 113 & EPiCC).

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