Popsicle Sticks: A Tip

Many teachers, myself included, use Popsicle sticks (in a coffee mug) to select students randomly.  I still think it’s a great idea, but you have to be careful of one thing.

My Tip

Add positive incentives to the Popsicle sticks.  My first year I only used them to call on students to answer questions, often difficult ones when nobody was talking in class.  This created a negative vibe around the sticks and I could almost feel the negative energy emanating from the mug when I reached for it.  Students would come to dread the clink-clink of me shuffling the sticks in the mug.

This year one student even added several more of her name to the mug! I caught her (I *think* she was only joking), so she didn’t benefit from it, but it made me realize that I had done something, almost by accident, that turned out to be a very good thing for my class.  Why was she adding her name more times?  Well, I still use it to call on students, but I suppose the good outweighed the bad to the point that she wanted to add her name & increase the chances of my drawing her name.  You see, I also use the sticks to call on “homework writers” and select “best notes”–positions that students can earn participation points if they’ve been doing their HW and taking notes in class.

Even if you don’t use that system in class, I don’t care if you have to draw a Popsicle stick out and give candy away to make them positive–you should definitely help students to associate that sound more positively so they don’t dread being called on so much.  It has certainly helped my classroom become a more positive place this year.


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