Role Cards

job cards

Role Cards are an instructional tool in which students are divided into small groups and assigned specific roles in order to actively participate, learn new skills, and efficiently complete small group projects and tasks. Common roles featured on Role Cards are leader, note-taker, speaker, troubleshooter, and timer; such roles are often used for editing workshops, literature circles, and/or group projects/tasks because they provide structure and divide responsibilities. Role cards should describe specific tasks or behaviors needed to successfully fulfill a given role’s duties. Role cards can be assigned with special attention to student learning styles or strengths to increase student confidence. Assigning roles can lead to equality of participation for all students while meeting a practical purpose--not missing any tasks within a group assignment. Role Cards help teachers organize group work and provide students with clear, tangible ways to actively participate in a group assignment and learn new skills.

Implementation Tips

Best Practices for Equal Participation
Define each role clearly by describing specific actions or duties required on each Role Card. Ensure that each role is important and make each role engaging even if levels of challenge must vary. Throughout the year, acknowledge student academic growth, respond to learning styles, and provide choice when possible.
Purpose and Expectations
Describe the purpose of Role Cards (completing group work, clear duties, equal participation) prior to implementation and explain that students are not confined to their role. For example, a Timekeeper in Literature Circle will still be expected to participate in the discussion while keeping time.
Teacher-Driven Role Design Examples
Design purposeful, necessary roles that engage each student and encourage full participation before assigning roles. For example, during a revision workshop, a teacher might assign the following roles: Main Idea Expert, Word Choice Inspector, and Evidence Investigator. During a literature discussion circle, roles could include a timekeeper, note-taker, and leader.
Flexible Grouping
Change grouping arrangements over time. Plan each group to contain students with a range of learning styles and levels. Thoughtfully assign roles according to readiness levels and learning styles. For example, group 1-2 students who struggle behaviorally with 1-2 high performers; keep personalities and developing potential new skills in mind.
Sound Bites to Generate Discussion
Print Role Cards for students before class. Cards should define their role duties and also provide “sound bites.” Sound bites are sentence starters or frames that students used to stimulate discussion and prevent the group from becoming stuck. Read [[ |this example]] of Role Cards with sound bites.
Rotate the Roles
Rotate student roles weekly or bi-weekly to expand students’ skill sets and prevent groups from becoming stagnant. For example, a student might be the Timekeeper for one week and then rotate into the Speaker role. Keep a calendar that shows the role rotation to create a routine and stimulate excitement.
Student-Driven Role Design
Ask students to brainstorm what roles they think would be helpful, which could increase student investment, to complete a (relatively easy) group assignment after they have used Role Cards several times. The teacher creates the duty description and students create and display decorative role title cards.
Role Reflection
Students should briefly reflect on their effectiveness and growth in their role after completing a group assignment, as well as their group’s overall progress. Student reflections can also inform how the teacher rotate Roles Cards and empower students to try new roles.


Literature Circle Discussion
Students are using Role Cards for literature circle. Roles could include: “Discussion Director” (facilitates discussion/poses questions); “Connecter” (connects text with real-life); “Summarizer” (summarizes); and “ Predictor” (makes plot predictions). The teacher states: *“Today we’ll break into literature circles to read aloud and discuss. Everyone will have a specific role to play to facilitate good discussion. You’ll receive a Role Card with your title, responsibilities, and sentence starters. While you are assigned one role, you can make contributions beyond that role. For example, if I am the Predictor, I can still connect fiction to real life like the Connecter.”*
Revision Workshop
During a writing workshop, the teacher passes out Role Cards with the following titles and descriptions to small groups: “Word Choice Inspector” will highlight imprecise words,” “Verb Enhancer” will annotate for passive voice, and “Sentence Searcher” will circle sentences to combine for better fluency. The teacher states: *“During peer editing, you’ll each choose a role to focus on. You’ll read an excerpt from each student’s paper for 10 minutes and perform your specific role. Share your findings with the group and make editing suggestions. For example, if the ‘Word Choice Inspector' highlights a word, the entire group will brainstorm a replacement word.”*

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