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Using picture cards as a facilitation resource

Sometimes as enablers of change, we just need a few more ideas to help us plan, design and run our activities. As we’ve been facilitating online and slowly getting back into physical events, we have realised we like using cards as a resource in our facilitation. So, what picture card sets do we use and how do we use them? Here are a few we have in our toolbox!

The first card set is one Denise has used a lot over the years and it is called Picture this. They are basically just a set of photographs of all kinds of things, from rural mailboxes to a rollercoaster. Denise has used these cards to start a workshop as a means of helping participants introduce themselves. So for example, ask participants to choose a picture that represents the topic under discussion or to tell us about their life at the moment. Then they can introduce themselves and tell a bit of a story using the picture. Another way Denise has used them is at the end of a workshop, asking participants to pick a card that represents how they felt about the workshop or what they learnt. It’s a great way to help people be a little creative but without too much pressure. And it gives people something to hide behind – even a picture gives someone who does not like speaking in front of a group something to be behind and helps them feel a bit safer! This set can be bought from Innovative Resources (see details in the resources below). But if you don’t want to buy a set like this you can always make your own by printing out a range of pictures or using photos you have taken. We recommend laminating them, just so they can survive a bit of wear and tear but it is pretty easy to come up with a set of cards like this!

The next set of cards is one John has used for years – also from Innovative Resources – called The Bears! These are a set of 48 cards with illustrated bears in various emotional states. They are a great way of allowing people to talk about their feelings. We’ve talked through the ORID  discussion technique before, and highlighted that we can be tempted to skip the reflection on feelings part, but these cards give people something to hold on to and talk about. For a lot of Aussie and Kiwi blokes, it can be hard to put our emotions into words. John has found these cards make that a whole lot easier and fun! John will sometimes use these at the beginning of a workshop to help people describe how they’re feeling about the particular topic being discussed. Other times he will use them at the end of the workshop as part of the evaluation, where people can use the cards to describe how they’re feeling about the workshop or about taking the next steps. 

The third set of cards is one Denise has been using a bit more lately. They are a variation on the bear cards, and they are Feelings and needs cards. One half of the deck has a range of feelings, such as thankful, nervous or furious, one per card. The other half of the deck has needs written out, for example, clarity, honesty or support, one per card. Like the bears cards, they can be used to help people reflect on how they are feeling – just ask people to choose at least one card and then get them to share the feeling and anything else they want to explain as part of that. Denise has used these at the start of a workshop to do a check in – asking the participants how they are feeling. And then used the needs cards to help people express what they need from the workshop. Denise has two sets of these. One is a plain set. The other is a set in both English and Māori. This has been one way Denise has been trying to incorporate Māori words into her vocabulary and thinking (although she says she has a long way to go on this!). We have added a link into show notes for a few options, including ones you can print out yourself if that’s easier. 

The fourth set of cards are ones that help us to reflect on our practice as facilitators. They are from Kath Murdoch in Australia and are called The Art of Inquiry cards – 10 practices for teaching and learning. Kath is a teacher, writer, university lecturer and consultant who has worked in a range of schools and countries, and she champions integrative and inquiry-based methodologies. Inquiry is the process of prompting curiosity involving questioning, investigating, experimenting and reflecting. It is most often used in the context of school-based learning but the principles Kath works through in her cards are critical to effective facilitation, so we think it is worth looking outside our discipline to keep learning!

The fifth set of cards is one Denise has seen being used and read about but we have not used these ourselves yet. These are from Chad Littlefield of We! and are called We! Connect Cards. They are a set of 60 cards designed to help start conversations and build trust and connection. There are 20 cards that ask questions that are fun and light, 20 that ask questions that are a bit deeper and the final 20 cards that encourage self-reflection. Denise saw these used online as a way of doing introductions, so just before people got sent into a breakout room to introduce themselves, the facilitator held up a card and typed the question into the chat box. Participants were asked to share their answers as part of their introduction. Like other card options we have mentioned, you can also print these out yourself for free (as long as you sign up to get emails) which is a pretty good deal!

So there you have our five recommendations for using picture cards as facilitation resources. And now you have read our thoughts, we would like to hear yours! Add a comment below the blog post and tell us about your experiences using picture cards when you are facilitating… What have you used and what has worked well? Please add any tips and further ideas. We don’t want this to be just a one-way conversationjoin in by sharing your thoughts and ideas with us! 

Thanks folks for reading this Enablers of change post. Remember to subscribe to our newsletter if you’d like to know when new posts are available. And if you liked what you heard, please tell your friends so they too can join the conversation!


Innovative resources card sets can be found online here

Feelings and needs cards can be found here or you can print your own from this site, or directly download the Feelings deck or the Needs deck

For our New Zealander followers, you might be interested in these Maori feelings cards. 

Kath Murdoch’s art of inquiry cards can be found here.

We! Connect cards can be found online here or they can be downloaded for free here

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Jeff Coutts
1 year ago

Good blog/video and nice topic. Great to hear about the broader range of cards out there and the opportunities they bring. Also good to hear to hear about their use in evaluation – I can imagine that someone could take notes about the cards chosen and reasons for them. I imagine you could also use the cards in the middle of a workshop to gauge whether there is a need to change tack.

1 year ago

It’s good read and watch your presentation on the use of picture cards as facilitation resource as picking of specific cards stand to reflect the mood of learners but my questions are: how many people in a group would be appropriate to have the picture cards used in teaching? Would that not mean that in a set of cards a number of the cards will have similar items or pictures, if for instance, two more people want to express the same position on the learning mood? On another note, I expected to see application of the picture card in practical… Read more »

1 year ago
Reply to  John James

Thank you John. Perfect and satisfactory response from you. Another insight gained for teaching in group extension message delivery, and possibly for applicationin classroom teaching. Cheers

11 months ago

Thanks for giving my cards a nod 🙂 I have a zillion different ways I use them – perhaps it’s high time I made a blog post about them all. I appreciate your comment about te reo Maori. I also have a long way to go, but we have to start somewhere.

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