“Conversacolor1 is a highly structured form of class discussion that is extraordinarily simple in design. Each student is given a set of colored cards with which to ‘play’ during a class discussion. A color is assigned to each kind of statement that might occur in discussion: a statement of a new idea (red), a statement that develops an idea (green), a transition between ideas (orange). When the student raises her hand to speak, she must be holding the ‘correct’ color card for the kind of statement she plans to make. In addition, there is a card (yellow) that allows others to challenge the student’s color choice if it seems her statement does not match the color used, and a special card to request clarification of terms (purple). By insisting that a card accompany each contribution to class discussion, this game encourages students to classify their own statements in relationship with the comments of their peers, and engage in meta-cognitive work on the kind of statement they wish to make. Furthermore, the teacher can relinquish the facilitator role and become a player in the class.
The game begins with someone offering a statement or question to the class on the given topic. That person then calls on the next speaker, with each subsequent speaker called on by the previous. This lack of a single facilitator is important, for each person can thus choose how the discussion will unfold. As I write in the instructions: ‘Want to see your point developed? Choose someone holding a green card; want to have the last word on that idea and move somewhere else? Choose a red card holder.’ The game insists that students take responsibility for the direction of the conversation. However, if a challenge (yellow) or clarification (purple) card is held up, these get priority over all others, with purple getting priority over yellow. If there is a challenge, the class must vote on whether they agree with the challenger, or whether the original speaker used the correct card.”
Conversacolor is a fairly sophisticated level of discussion and students must be supported to execute it in ways that are beneficial to them. However, by participating in this kind of discussion, students are invited to think metacognitively about talk, which can be translated to their writing. This strategy can also provide a class with a “color-coded” language for talking about ways to develop their writing.
1. Excerpted from Scheinberg, Cynthia. “NTLF Vol. 12 No. 6 2003 – Carnegie Chronicle.” NTLF Vol. 12 No. 6 2003 – Carnegie Chronicle. National Teaching and Learning Forum, n.d. Web. 17 Mar. 2014.