Three Ways to Pick and Choose September 03 2010

In the middle of a lesson, you ask a question of the class. You expect to see hands in the air after an appropriate amount of wait time. Looking around, you see those two students who raise their hands.

To answer every question, every day, all the time.

The rest of the kids rely on these Masters of Answers, looking at their desks or the floor in relief.

As a teacher, I get tired of seeing the same two hands all day, every day. Early on in my teaching career, I chose to use the Number System to help avoid only hearing from the Masters of Answers.

How the Number System Works

The Number System is simple and can be used year after year, providing basic organization to the children and materials in your classroom.

Teachers tend to alphabetize their students by first name or last name, and the Number System works either way. Once you write out the list of students alphabetically, assign each one a number, starting with "1" for the first student, "2" for the second, and so on.

Then number your classroom curriculum with the same numbers, as well as classroom materials that students use on a regular basis and that you want returned.

Maintaining the System

As the school year begins, make sure to provide nametags on your students' desks that have not only their names, but

[caption id="attachment_6484" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Photo by Twitchcraft"][/caption]

their numbers based on your alphabetical list. Spend a significant amount of time explaining that each student has his/her own number for the rest of the year.

Whenever students need to use classroom materials that you're trying to preserve, like calculators or special art materials, they simply choose the one that has their corresponding number. Then, when you take inventory afterward, it's easy to see which materials are missing and (hopefully) track them down.

Picking and Choosing

The Number System is ideal for taking the pressure off picking students to answer questions during lessons or choosing who will participate in classroom games. Two ways to use the Number System include:

  • Name Sticks - use popsicle sticks or craft sticks and write names of students on one end - to keep track of gener with a glance, use a blue marker to write boys' names and a pink marker for girls' names. On the other ends of the sticks, write down the corresponding number of each student. Keep the sticks in a decorated container and easily accessible!
  • Name Cards - On a fun deck of cards, write the names and corresponding numbers of your students on each card. When you need to choose students for a task, simply pull cards from the deck.
  • Popcorn - As you require student participation, take the pressure off picking and choosing, allowing students to do it for awhile. When a student has participated and it's time for another person's turn, that student can call out a number that corresponds to a student in class. This adds more randomness to the picking and choosing, since students won't know the name and number connections as well as you do.

The Number System is a great way to keep participation exciting in your classroom, no matter what your class is doing!