Talking Chips

Talking Pieces

Talking Chips are manipulatives (e.g., counters, paper tokens, etc.) given to students during small group discussions. Each time a student wants to speak, they “spend” a chip by placing their chip in the center of the group’s table. When a student no longer has chips, he or she must wait to speak until all other students have used theirs, then chips can be refilled by the teacher or redistributed among group members. Using Talking Chips promotes student participation and ensures that one student does not dominate a discussion. Additionally, Talking Chips encourage students to conduct balanced group discussion thus fostering greater collaboration and self-management skills.

Ready-to-Use Resources


Solid Color Counters

A collection of printable counters to use in various classroom activities. The set includes counters of different colors and sizes.

Grade K, 1, 2 · Math · 4 pages


Image Counters

A collection of printable counters to use in various classroom activities. The set includes counters with images in two different sizes. Add your own images to make counters that incorporate student interests or relate to specific activities.

Grade K, 1, 2 · Math · 2 pages

Implementation Tips

Model how and when to use Talking Chips. After explaining the purpose of the chips, ask two or three students to join you in front of the class for a mock discussion. During the demonstration, highlight appropriate uses of Talking Chips (e.g., put your chip quietly in center of table before speaking, only one person speaks at a time, do not play with chips, etc.).
Visual Reminders
Create [[|posters or task cards]] that provide students with visual reminders of procedures and expectations for using Talking Chips. These reminders can be given to each group prior to discussions or posted in the classroom and reviewed before each small group session.
Types of Talking Chips
Use Talking Chips that are made from quiet, sturdy materials. Chips can be created by cutting out shapes from cardboard or heavy-weight paper. Manipulatives made with foam such as base ten blocks or counters are also great options for Talking Chips. Avoid using manipulatives or materials for chips that are noisy or may become a distraction for students during discussion.
Distributing Chips
Count chips ahead of time and determine how many to distribute to each student. In most cases, all students should receive the same number of chips. However, chips can also be distributed strategically in order to encourage greater participation from students who are typically reluctant to share in group discussions.
Building Student Autonomy
Assign students roles during group discussions to promote self-management skills. For example, the discussion leader can make sure that students are “spending” a chip each time they speak and redistribute chips when all students have used all of the chips they were given. The student who “spends” all of their chips first can take over as group recorder and write down the ideas that are shared.


Group Discussions
After watching the movie adaptation of a book students recently finished reading, a teacher gives students a Venn Diagram to record similarities and differences between the two versions of the story. After providing time for students to brainstorm ideas individually, students are broken into groups and instructed to take three Talking Chips each from the bucket in the front of the room. As students take turns sharing ideas in their groups they “spend” a chip by placing it in the center of the table or desk. As each student shares an idea, the others add notes to their Venn Diagrams.
Group Projects - Shared Decision Making
Three students are working together to design a replica of the Mayflower. Before they begin discussing how to build the ship and what details to include, they each take out four crayons to use as Talking Chips. As each student shares an idea (e.g., “I think we should make the ship out of cardboard.”) it is recorded on large sheet of chart paper. After all students have used their Talking Chips, the group reviews the ideas and votes on which plans to implement.
Peer Coaching
In preparation for a math exam, a teacher asks students to work on several review problems with a partner. The teacher gives each student five Talking Chips and reminds them that they should work together to find the correct solutions and help clarify any misconceptions their partner has. While solving the problems, students spend chips by suggesting or completing the next step to a problem, stating the answer, or drawing a model/picture to represent the problem. When both students use all of their chips before finishing the problems, they each take five more and continue coaching each other.
Community Building
During a class meeting at the beginning of the year, a teacher writes the following question on the board: “What makes you feel safe at school and excited to learn?” The teacher then gives each student two playing cards and asks students to leave the cards face up in front of them. As students share a response they flip over one of their playing cards and the teacher records the idea on the board. When all students have shared at least one idea, the teacher asks students to identify repeated or similar responses and launches a discussion about class expectations and rules.

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