Nomination Cards: Giving students a chance to speak

Nomination cards can be used in discussion activities as a way to give all students a chance to speak.

It can be a difficult balance trying to facilitate and maintain discussions in the classroom.

You have to think about dominant students, shy students, students who don’t know each other, students who feel that they belong to different social groups, students who feel once they have said something their part in the discussion is over and students who are reluctant to talk.

It’s difficult and if the teacher involves themselves in the discussion, the students will look at them to lead it.

Students need to learn how to nominate each other, how to ask each other for their opinions and how to involve everyone.

You can assign roles to students, or give them an activity to practice these skills.

I tried a nomination activity out and it worked extremely well.

The activity is based on card games, not games like poker, but games that have special cards or cards that give the player an ability.  There are games like Uno, where you can change the color or direction of play and there are also games like Pokémon, where you have attacks and defence.

I needed something that had a few more options than Uno, because Uno either goes clockwise or counter-clockwise. I also needed something less complicated that Pokémon.

This is what I came up with.

The Cards

Download the Nomination Cards pdf

Print out the cards. Cut them up and you are ready to play.

Nomination Cards

A single set is 20 cards, but you don’t have to use all the cards. You can take cards out or you can add more cards of one type or even add your own cards.

The cards are fairly simple and easy to read because you don’t want to spend a lot of time explaining all the different cards. Maximising production time is far more important than spending time learning what each card does.

The only cards you may have to introduce before playing are the free pass and if you have low-level students the random card, but the hopefully the images should help.

How to Play

IMG_1007 Discussion

Divide the class into groups of 4-6 students. Let the groups decide who will speak first.

Introduce a topic question or a set of questions to the students. For example:

“Which is better – living in the city or living in the countryside?”

Give each group and set of cards and ask them to put the pile blank side up in the middle of the table.

The first student answers the question.

“I think living in the countryside is better because the air is cleaner.”

The student turns over a card from the pile. It reads: “Ask the person on your left.”

The first student turns to the student on their left and asks:

“What do you think, John?”

The second student gives their opinion and turns over a card.

John turns over the card that says ‘keep talking for 1 minute.’ He continues or makes a new points and after the time is up he can turn over another card to choose another student in the group.

When the students have finished discussing the topic or all 20 cards have been used they can either report what they discussed to the teacher or another group, continue the discussion by building on what they have already talked about or they can continue with a new topic question. Just shuffle the cards and repeat.

The Benefits of Nomination Cards

I think there are several benefits to using nomination cards.

You avoid dominant students because there is a random element, which means students who are shy are more likely to be included and involved.

It avoids students feeling like they have completed the task after saying one thing because they may be asked to keep talking about their opinion, or explain it again.

It avoids the teacher feeling like they have to maintain the discussion of reluctant speakers and the activity should teach nomination skills. Hopefully, with the aim that students will continue to have discussions in this way without the help of the cards.

Although this starter set is quite simple, you can expand upon it, change the rules, and develop new ways of running the activity.

If you have any comments or suggestions about these cards, please leave a comment.

Alternatively, you can send me a message by visiting the contact page, leaving me a message on my Facebook page or by following me on Twitter.

Thanks for reading and take care!

The nomination cards were created in Microsoft® Word® 2013, the images were created in Microsoft® PowerPoint® 2013 using both standard and custom shapes.

49 thoughts on “Nomination Cards: Giving students a chance to speak

  1. Going to try this after the Easter break. I used to think about how to put students in groups and shuffle people around based on ability and personality. Theses cards should speed things up.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is great..thanks so much for sharing. it is such a simple idea yet very useful and adaptable. I will be using this in my clases!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Deborah, I’m glad you like the cards. Feel free to leave any feedback or suggestions about the cards after you have used them. It’d be great to know how your class responds to the activity. 🙂


    1. Hi Long Hoang Mai,

      I’m glad you like the cards. I kept the design fairly simple so they would be easy to print and could be used in a variety of teaching contexts.

      If you have any specific design ideas, send me a message via the contact page and I will see what I can do.

      Alternatively, you are welcome to redesign the cards or print them on color card and add your own stickers & symbols.



  3. Thank you for this fantastic activity! I used to find it difficult to involve my students in expressing ideas. One thing I’m still confused is that the “rock, scissors, paper”: who plays in this case?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Tho, I’m glad you like the cards. If a student turns over rock, paper, scissors, the other students in the group play and the student who turned over the card asks the winner the question. That’s my idea anyway, you can do anything you want though 🙂


  4. Wow – just what I needed for my adult conversation classes (will put it straight to use on Wednesday) and for my teenage school classes where some students ‘sleep’ leaving others to do all the speaking.

    I’m also going to use it to prepare students for Trinity conversation subjects…

    Excellent idea!!! Thanks so much.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Susan, I’m glad you like the cards! They do work quite well for business meetings. I hope they work well with your teenage students as well! Let me know how it goes.


      1. Hi Susan, I’m glad they worked well! 🙂 If you think you need a new type of card or have any suggestions for developing the game, let me know and I will include your ideas when I create some more cards. Thanks so much for the feedback! 🙂


  5. Thanks alot for your e-mail
    I always try to use your methods on my classes but I have one big problem ,alot of my students weak in vocabulary this make them can’t speak or write without my help.
    I teach students from 14 years to 18 years old
    What can I do . Can you give me some tips, please,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Sunds,

      I don’t know about you, but thinking about how I study languages helps me when I have to teach a language. I am still a low-level student in one language.

      As a beginner, I prefer to focus on the vocabulary I need to learn and think of the vocabulary I already know. I try to put those words into useful structures or sentences that are easy to substitute. I try to keep a list of the things I have learnt and I write down the things I need to learn when I can’t think of the word. I try to practice and use the phrases when I can, so that I can try and have a conversation with someone.

      I think about that and I develop classroom routines that will help my students when I am teaching.

      How did you learn English? What worked for you and why? Maybe that’s the best place to start and from there you can adapt your experiences to meet the needs of your students.

      You can also check out for ideas, lesson plans and activity suggestions.

      Thanks for reading my blog!



  6. I am going to try combining nomination cards ( the ones with the arrows ) with cards with questions to answer. The students who will get the cards with questions will have to answer the questions and the ones who will get the cards with arrows will have to render what their peers have said.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I like this variation. There is a similar activity called ‘What did I say?’ – you can find it in the teaching unplugged book.

        I don’t think the cards need a name in order for you to use them.

        Good luck with your activity.



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