2 Cool Ways to Randomly Call on Students During a Discussion

How do you make sure that every student participates in a class discussion and no one student dominates? There are several different tricks teachers use: keeping track of responses on a clipboard, randomly pulling names out of a hat, to name two. But my favorite two ways are also my students’ favorites.

The first is the easiest. Find an old deck of cards and write a different student’s name on each card. During the class discussion shuffle the cards and draw a name. That student must now contribute to the discussion. After he or she has finished, put the card off to the side and keep the deck handy for the next lull in the discussion.

I’m not exactly sure why my students like this so much. Maybe it’s the Vegas-like atmosphere produced by their teacher shuffling a deck of cards. Maybe I need to invest in a dealer’s visor.  I already wear a lot of vests to school.  Regardless of the reason, they seem to enjoy it.

The second way involves a little more work and a piece of technology, but it’s ultra cool. First you need a Palm handheld, like a Palm Tungsten E2, which is what I use. Then you need to install the freeware Name Picker program. The third thing you need to do is create a memo in your Palm that is simply a list of all your students. The Name Picker program reads your memo, and with the click of your stylus, it randomly picks a student name for you. Students think this is really cool, especially when I show them their name on the screen to prove it’s their turn.  The disadvantage is that Name Picker does not take a student out of the picking pool once he or she has been selected. On the plus side, just because a student has been picked once, doesn’t mean he or she won’t get picked again. You can find more information about using Name Picker at Learning@Hand.

Of course, a clever and quick-witted teacher could always find an old broken Palm and pretend it’s randomly picking students. Not that I’m advocating that you understand…

2 Responses

  1. August 17, 2007

    […] RSS ← 2 Cool Ways to Randomly Call on Students During a Discussion […]

  2. October 8, 2007

    […] I’ll figure out how to use the Palm to record who’s answered.  There are other, less geeky ways to randomly call on students, but I like to use technology as much as I […]

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