The Silent Shuffle
the speed of working together silently

This activity is a great way to change up a lesson.

Use it as an intro, or a warm-up, or in a shortened class period when time is not plentiful.

This gets more exciting if you let several or even half of all of the groups win. The very first group to get the set done correctly can get the BEST prize, but allowing others to win lesser prizes will keep the whole class trying even after the quicker ones finish.

Here's what it looks like:

  • As the class enters the room be sure to have 1st place, 2nd place, 3rd place, etc. written on the board and a piece of tape underneath each.
    This will pique their curiosity and get them interested immediately.
  • Get class into pairs. (If you have an odd number of students, the smartest or quickest person should work alone.)
  • Each student gets their own paper and puts their own name on it.
  • A multi-step problem is then revealed.
  • Everyone works silently for 20 to 30 seconds.
  • At the end of 20 to 30 seconds the teacher will say, "SWITCH."

    Pairs will then switch SILENTLY and continue working on their partner's paper. They may correct any errors that they find on their partner's paper, BUT THEY CAN NOT TALK!

  • This 20 to 30 second switching will continue until everyone is finished.
  • As the pairs finish, they bring their papers up and tape them underneath the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. place markers.
    Be sure to let EVERYONE tape their papers up. Just because someone is first or second does not mean that they will win, for they must also be CORRECT to win. This fact will give even the slower students hope to win and to keep working.
  • Once everyone is taped up on the board, do the problem in front of the class, they will watch because they want to see if they got it correct.
    Then start by reading the papers taped under the first place spot and announce if they won or not. Continue down the line until you have all of your winners.
  • Award the prizes, and ask if they would like another round, assuming that you have extra time.



  1. If a team talks while working on the problem, they get their papers taken and they must start on a fresh problem.
  2. If a team talks after they have placed their problem on the board, their paper gets moved to the back of the line.
  3. We keep a roll of duct tape for voluntary use. Anyone afraid that their mouth may have a mind of its own is free to place a piece of tape over it for the duration of the game.
  4. Our kids liked this so much that it evolved into a singular game. They reached a point where they didn't even want a partner anymore.

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