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Peer Carding: A Strategy for Getting Students to Read Prior to Class

Student engagement is critical to student persistence; however, it is difficult to facilitate learning when, according to Hobson, approximately 70% of our students have not read their assignments (Hobson, 2004). If you are frustrated by your students' blank expressions when you ask a reading-based question, consider "Peer Carding." This technique, developed by George I. Martin, is described as follows:

  1. Based on the assigned reading for the day, students are required to bring to class an index card with "two thoughtful questions."
  2. At the onset of class, the instructor [or an assigned student] collects, shuffles, and randomly redistributes the cards.
  3. After some reflection, the students take turns responding to one of the two questions. They start by saying, "I have John’s card, and the question is..." According to Martin, this usually results in “class discussion and sometimes even debate."
  4. Even if a student does not have a question, she or he turns in a card with their name on it. The student who receives their card says, "I have Pat's card, but there is no question." According to Martin, “Fortunately, this scenario never occurred – each student always brought in a card with questions." Furthermore, if a student is absent, they are required to bring an index card based on the assignment for the class period missed.
  5. Generally, this activity takes thirty to forty-five minutes, and according to Martin, "In some instances, just one question led to twenty minutes or more of discussion."

Martin shares that, as the instructor, he also benefits from this activity because he better understands what his "students are connecting to in the reading." Furthermore, he advises "modeling thoughtful questions" and discouraging questions that require little more than simply reading a passage in a book. He also recommends why versus how questions and encourages students to develop questions that require the reader to apply themselves to a situation described in the text. Beyond the Text questions are also invited, and involve “getting ideas from the text that are not found in the text itself.”

In terms of grading, Martin suggests that the actual "bringing of cards could be considered part of a participation grade..." Or, the Peer Cards could constitute a separate grade. Martin uses a check mark system where a poor question receives a check minus, which equals one point; a good question rates a check and equals two points; and a very good question earns a check plus equal to three points. An "over the top" question receives an asterisk, and may be considered towards extra credit.

Note: Faculty interested in Peer Carding, may want to develop a rubric to help students understand the difference between good, poor and "over the top" questions.


Hobson, E. H. "Getting Students to Read: Fourteen Tips." IDEA Paper No. 40. Center for Faculty Evaluation and Development. Kansas State U., July 2004. Print

Martin, G. I. "Peer Carding." College Teaching. 48.1 (2000): 19-20. Print.

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