Friday, March 23, 2012

Etymology of Popsicle Shticks

In a presentation on differentiation techniques, a co-worker of mine introduced me to a clever method for randomly calling on students. She suggested writing students names on popsicle sticks and keeping them in a cup. You could pull out sticks to call on random students, or pull out groups to sticks to make random teams.

I really liked the idea from a pedagogy perspective:
  • Calling on random students helps keep them on their toes
  • Randomizing groups forces students to be social with each other and takes pressure off of socially challenged students. (Although I might not want to do this every time. I think it’s important to give students an opportunity to stretch and make connections on their own.)
  • If random students answer, then all students must participate instead of just the most engaged
  • Instead of an echo-chamber effect from the best students answering all the questions, I get a better idea of the comprehension level of the class when random students answer.
  • Calling on weak students for difficult questions gives them an opportunity to stretch. I just have to be careful to make the students feel comfortable to try and fail and try again. I’ll also have to be ready to scaffold the answer for the student should they need some help.

However, I wasn’t too keen on managing five cups full of popsicle sticks. As a secondary school teacher, I have five different classes in different rooms across the school, so keeping up with 120 sticks in 5 bundles carried hurriedly around every day seemed like a non-starter. However, my tablet PC isn’t far from my arms during most of my lessons, so the solution seemed to be a program that would hold my popsicle sticks for me. I would be able to edit my lists easily, and I would never drop a cup full of sticks on the floor. Hence, “Popsicle”.

The ‘shtick’ in Popsicle Shticks, is not meant to be joke about poor pronunciation. Rather, Shtick is a Yiddish word that refers to an attention getting routine. Much like a comedian might have a Shtick that he relies on, Popsicle Shticks is a routine I use to keep the student’s attention. Hence, “Shtick”.

If you want to know more about Popsicle Shticks, check out the original blog post.

To download Popsicle Shticks, click here.

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