Social Skills Series #27: Collectible Trading Cards

I think the Roman Empire (2015) is my favourite Creation Studio theme that we have ever done. Did you know that Mesomedes of Crete, court composer to the Emperor Hadrian, wrote several songs that have survived with both words and music from over 2000 years ago? It was very exciting to get to share real music from the actual Roman Empire with our Phoenix students.

Perhaps surprisingly, the language of poetry during the Roman period was not Latin, but Greek. Our music classes included singing those ancient songs (which were, as you can imagine, very chilling coming out of the mouths of children), and, inevitably, some discussion of the Greco-Roman mythology that formed the subject matter of those songs.

During one music class with the Grade 3-4 group, we listened to a piece called Hymn to the Muse, and I decided, on the spur of the moment, to teach the kids about the nine Muses. They are nine goddesses, daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne (Memory), who inspire human beings to create art. The words “music”, “museum” and “amusement” are reminders of the divine quality of arts and entertainment.

Each of the Muses is responsible for a different area of creative endeavour, as follows:

Calliope                –              epic poetry
Clio                         –              history
Euterpe                –              flute playing
Polyhymnia        –              hymns
Erato                     –              love poetry
Urania                   –              astronomy
Thalia                    –              comedy
Melpomene       –              tragedy
Terpsichore        –              dance

These Greek names are very fun to say, and I wrote each of them in Sharpie on an index card to show how they were spelled. I handed a card out to each of the students so they could read them out loud. Then I was tickled when, at the end of the class, they didn’t want to give them back.

Of course I let them keep the cards, and, as they filed out of the music room, I heard them consult each other about which Muse they had gotten, and whether anyone wanted to trade. So this is the story of the day that I accidentally invented a collectible trading card game.

A simple piece of card stock with some words and pictures on it is a very powerful motivator. Consider the phenomenal popularity of games like Pokémon and Magic: The Gathering, not to mention baseball and hockey cards. The trading element is optional; it can be enough to collect the cards, admire them, and be proud to own them. So this might be a good time to ask yourself the following question: What behaviours do I want to see manifest in my children, and could I somehow make those behaviours into cards?

Since this series has been all about social skills, let’s think of some positive social behaviours. Get a stack of blank index cards and write, in fun colours and decorated with stickers and fancy borders where appropriate,





These are just a few ideas. Maybe you show a card to your kid and tell them they can have it when they have carried out the task. Maybe you pay attention to when they do something good and make them a card to reward the behaviour. There are many different ways you and your kids might go about developing this deck. But I’ll wager you this: your kids will treasure those cards and look at them over and over. When they look at the cards, they will remember what they did to earn them, and that behaviour will be reinforced.

We’d love to hear how Collectible Trading Cards works for you and your family, class, or group. Post your success stories on our Facebook page so that we can all learn from your example!

Vanessa Farkas is a writer, musician, educator, and lifetime learner who worked at the Phoenix Education Foundation as a music teacher from 2010-2018 and has left to retrain and pursue a new career as a legal assistant. Her eight years at Phoenix have left her enriched with experiences and stories, and this series blends those stories and experiences with practical advice and perspectives on helping children develop social skills. Names have been changed.