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Historical Discussion Game & Cards

A Discussion, a Game, Both!


The “Historical Discussion” game is a pack of 40+ playing cards with themes and approaches that relate to different aspects of our social sciences. 

The cards in the pack are grouped into four categories: aspects of society (red cards) historical thinking (green cards) 5Ws (blue cards) and chance (black cards) to help gamify the experience.

The original card deck and strategy was developed by the RÉCIT de l’univers social  under a CC license by-nc-sa.


See also the video at Discussion historique en classe. in action.

NEW:  A Google Slide version available for use with concept cards!

Game duration: about 15 minutes

Set up:

  • Place students in groups of 3 or 4.
  • Distribute a deck of cards to each group.
  • Give them a general historical theme for discussion.
  • Provide sub-themes to stimulate discussion.

Playing the game

  • At the start of the game, each player receives 5 cards.
  • The remaining cards are placed in a pile in the center of the playing surface.
  • Students take turns playing a card of their choice.
  • The student must orally state a historical fact related to the card played.
  • The other players decide whether or not to accept the student’s statement.
  • The player draws a card if the answer is not validated or if he/she is unable to state a fact.
  • The first player to run out of cards wins the game.

We propose using the “Historical Discussion” game in the integration phase of a teaching sequence to review content in a playful way. The game could be deployed in the following stages: 

  1. Structure the discussion by announcing the themes:
    – Plan 4 to 6 discussion themes to get the ball rolling.
    – The RÉCIT offers a few Google slides examples to frame discussions.
  1. Introduce or remind participants of the rules of the game; 
  2. Provide access to course notes, textbook or a document collection;
  3. Circulate among teams and pay attention to discussions;
  4. Review the progress of the game and its content by questioning the students:
    – Are there elements that are more difficult to explain?
    – What examples evoke consequences or changes? What are the examples of spatial planning?
    – What are your impressions of the card games? Which card is the most difficult to play? Which do you prefer? Why or why not?
    – Which cards do you think need to be described or explained?

Don’t hesitate to adapt the game to suit the students involved. For example, you can remove some of the cards considered more complex to play.

The “Historical Discussion” game has several pedagogical benefits:

Demonstrating understanding through oral expression
The “Historical Discussion” card game enables students to express their understanding of content, an intellectual operation or a concept in a way other than in written form. For many students, it’s easier to explain an abstract notion of geography or history verbally. It’s also a fun and effective way of reinforcing concepts covered in previous lessons.

Interpreting documents
A documentary file can be used to validate the answers offered by the students. What’s more, referring to documents to support facts is an essential part of the historical method.

Making different judgments
The “Historical Discussion” game can be an opportunity for the teacher to supplement his or her judgement of the various objectives to be achieved. In addition to the student’s written work, the teacher can observe conversations between students and consider these elements in the student’s overall assessment.

Sample Discussion Slide Decks

Google Slide presentations to structure a historical discussion

The RÉCIT univers social team has developed Google Slide shows in line with the content prescribed in the programs. These slideshows can accompany the historical discussion, starting with a problem-question and moving on to more specific themes. Each slide show includes :

  • A focus question on a social phenomenon or an issue;
  • Themes to guide discussion;
  • A brief review of a social phenomenon;
  • A variety of documents to support students’ answers;
  • Sample responses that reflect on the original question.

Teachers can, of course,  create their own Google Slides from these or from the modèle générique developed by the RÉCITUS team.

View French discussion slides at RÉCIT de l’univers social 

LEARN’s English adaptations  are also available:

Origins-1500 on Indigenous Peoples

1608-1760 on New France

1760-1791 on Consequences of  Conquest

1791-1840 on Demands and Struggles

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