Whilst you have your seating plan to target questions at pupils, sometimes you end up targeting the same pupils lesson after lesson and suddenly realise that you haven’t spoken to the quiet little boy at the back in four weeks.
Therefore, teachers often use some sort of random questioning to ensure that all pupils are answering questions or contributing to the lesson. There are websites in which you can input pupil names and it randomly selects a pupil, however I prefer to use lollipop sticks.
You can buy large quantities of lollipop sticks from Amazon for a couple of pound, but I actually bought two packs of 200 from Poundland. It is time consuming to write all the pupil names onto the labels, or directly onto the sticks, however they are then ready to use for the entire school year.
To make my questioning even stronger, I also write the pupil’s target grades on to the sticks. This is particularly useful at the start of the year when you are not too familiar with your pupils and their abilities. By having their target grades ready at a glance, it is easy to differentiate the questioning so that all pupils are challenged sufficiently by the questions you are asking them. I also find these sticks very useful when organising groups, as I am able to mix up the abilities of the groups very quickly and easily.
On placement in my PGCE year, I found that when I had asked a pupil a question after selecting their stick, they often switched off because they thought that they wouldn’t be picked again. However, there are a few tricks to get around this. Firstly, in the pot that you store the sticks, slide a piece of card that splits the inside of the pot into two sections, you are then able to put the sticks you have already used into a section separate to those you haven’t used. However, this will not be visible to the pupils, so they will think that their stick is just going back into the pot and could be potentially asked another question. Make sure that you pick a stick from the used side at some point in the lesson to prove that you could still target a pupil who has already answered a question.
And of course there are the occasions when it is necessary to tell a small fib and ignore that the stick you have picked out says “Jack” on it, and actually ask Lily a question because you can tell that Lily is not focused and needs to be drawn back into the lesson.
There are a couple of ways of making these sticks even more effective:
- Use coloured dots that match your seating plan to add SEN, EAL or G+T abilities to the sticks
- Add red, amber or green tapes to show whether pupils are on track regarding their target grades, or whether they are working below or above target – which will impact on the level of questioning you use