Card Talk is just the beginning!

Card Talk, a technique originally created by Ben Slavic, is a staple in many comprehension-based classrooms. In a nutshell, you distribute a notecard, ask students to write or draw about a specific topic, and then talk about this topic, using the cards and Personalized Questions and Answers (read my friend Ben Fisher’s post for a more detailed explanation of how to do Card Talk).

I have always seen Card Talk used as a tool to get to know our students and build community but over the years, I have also come to use it to drive my planning, to make cultural connections, and most importantly to affirm my students. Are you ready to take Card Talk to the next level?

On the first day of school with my 7th graders Novice learners, we found out through a Card Talk about what we like that one of my students likes to swim. I asked her three personalized questions in French, pointing at my question words, using gestures, and writing on the board when needed:

  1. Do you swim well?
  2. Where do you like to swim?
  3. With whom do you swim?

After that, we all co-wrote a few sentences about the student, using Write & Discuss (name and picture of the student have been changed to protect her identity):

As I was typing up the sentences that afternoon, attaching a recording of my voice to each sentence so students can later listen as homework, and putting my student’s picture on it, Malia Metella came to my mind. She is a French Olympic swimmer from French Guiana (Thank you, Carla Tarini, for your amazing “Qui Parle Français ?” book series!). I thought: “Wouldn’t it be cool to connect my student to a famous Black Francophone female swimmer?”

I can hear you thinking: too early, they have only had one day of French! Sure, I know I could wait until my Francophone People Unit to do that, but I have a unique opportunity to make a connection for this student now. The more I was reading about Malia, the more I felt the urgency to connect her to my student.

So, I created this slide. Now, I am providing repetition of simple language with a new context, I am making a cultural connection, and I am affirming my student!!

So, on our second day together, I read both slides slowly and my students popcorn-translated (one student pops out of their seat and translates the sentence I just read). Then, we used a Venn diagram to compare and contrast Michelle and Malia.

Because Malia is so cool, I also did a quick storytelling about how she swam across Lake Titicaca with Théo Curin, a famous paraplegic swimmer, and Matthieu Witvoet, an eco-adventurer, once again recycling the same language in a different and super interesting context. We also looked up on Google Earth where Lake Titicaca is.

We ended our second lesson with another Write & Discuss, about Malia this time.

Here is their homework:

I absolutely love using Comprehensible Input strategies and techniques to affirm my students and make cultural connections. And of course this goes beyond the beginning of the school year! If you want to see how Card Talk inspired an ENTIRE cultural unit with my French 2 class a few years ago, then this post is for you.


  1. Bonjour Cecile, this looks fabulous! I was wondering what platform you used to create the slide with the recording of your voice? Is this just Google Slides? Thank you for your creative ideas and I really hope to start doing this next week with my students. Merci,

  2. This is awesome! I love using Card Talk and I expand it in similar ways as you do! I use it a ton in the beginning of the year to get to know my students through language and I’m always looking for connections or ways to make it more fun and interesting. For example, one of my students went fishing this summer and caught a very small fish and instead of throwing it back, she ate it. We had fun with this one saying she fishnapped the baby fish from its mother. Another student was afraid of spiders in his bead and had a pink teddy bear named Barbie to help him ward off the pesky spiders. Just the other day, a girl drew what looked like Mickey Mouse jumping on the bed with the student (it was really a friend who had her hair in buns on the top of her head, but we went with the Mickey story—way more fun). Turns out Minney was very angry because Mickey was on a playdate with my student. Today, we had a girl who’s birthday falls on Columbus Day which is Dia de la Raza in Latin American countries. Gave us an opportunity to talk about this history of both holidays. Love making connections and LOVE using REAL language to get to know my students! Thank you for sharing, Cecile!

Leave a Reply