Friday, March 9, 2012

Random Student Name Picking Program - Popsicle Shticks

Popsicle Shticks is a light-weight program I created to help teachers call out student names at random. As a teacher I like the idea of questioning individual students because:

  • It keeps students attentive and on their toes
  • It helps prevent know-it-all students from dominating the class dialogue
  • It gives me feedback on how well students are capturing knowledge
  • It helps me learn student's names at the start of the year

I prefer this software implementation over names in a hat or picking names "randomly" from my head because:

  • In my classroom, I have a wireless video connection to the projector so when I'm direct teaching my computer is never far from me.
  • I don't have to manage half a dozen hats full of cards that need updating every time students enter/leave my class
  • I can copy/paste my class list from my excel grade book right into Popsicle Shticks
  • The program automatically draws a new random name whenever it loses program focus, so every time you check the screen it's ready with a new name.
  • If I feel like some students need to be called on more than others, I can quietly add their name to the class list multiple times. 

I have heard the argument that by randomly selecting students, you will occasionally ask difficult questions to students who are not able to answer. However, I argue that in those cases, you are giving that student an opportunity to exceed your expectations; provided that your classroom has a positive environment where students feel comfortable to try and fail and try again. In addition, if you want to ask a truly devious question, you can simply open up the question for anyone to answer rather than selecting a random student.

I've been testing Popsicle Shticks for a few days in my own classrooms and I have found that student response is mixed. Some students are excited by the chance to answer a question when they weren't brave enough to volunteer before. Other students were used to being able to quietly sit back and are not accustomed to having to be engaged all the time. Personally, I'm having trouble remembering to use the program! I usually ask the question, then remember to get a random name. This means that I don't really have that student's attention until after the question is asked. I need to get in the habit of calling on the students before asking the question.

If you're interested in trying Popsicle Shticks in your classroom, you can download the program from this link:

I also made a video tutorial on installing and running the program. The process is pretty straight forward, but there are two things you might need to look out for.

  1. You need .net installed. At least version 2.0. You can download the latest version here if you don't have it already (you probably do if you have windows 7). 
  2. You'll want to save the program to its own folder. It creates new files for each class that you have so if you save it to your desktop, you're going to fill your desktop with class lists.

For those of you who need a slight variation to this program, you can download the source here. Apologies for the sloppy code.


No comments:

Post a Comment