Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Please don't raise your hand!

Which students always raise their hand? The students that know the answer. Do you ever ask yourself, "Why am I calling on students who think they know the answer? Are these the students who need the most help."

I've started using a lot more cold calling this year. Instead of asking a question and then have students raise their hands, I just call on a student to answer the question. If too many of my cold call students are getting the questions wrong, obviously I need to adjust my lesson.

Before I used cold calling, my highest performers were giving me the perspective that the class had a greater level of understanding than was true.They were getting the questions right, so we must be ready to move on.


I use Popsicle sticks for the cold calling. I know many teachers use the Popsicle sticks to decide on who to call. Here is a little twist on the traditional routine. Instead of putting in one stick for each student, some students have more sticks. Which students have extra sticks? The students who need the most support.

I break my class into three groups -benchmark, strategic and intervention. My benchmark students each have their name on one stick. My strategic students each have their names on two sticks. My intervention students have their name on three sticks. This way, the students who need to most help tend to be called on more frequently.

I don't always use cold calling, but it is one strategy to keep students on their toes and make sure that everyone is engaged in the lesson.


  1. Great article. I'm not for sure if you have heard of Mike Schmoker, but he often brings up this same question during his presentations. As a principal, I see this happen every day in classrooms. It easily can send the wrong message when assessing understanding. I always visit with the teacher afterwards and the teacher always replies, "I never thought of it that way. We have always called on those with their hands up." I really like your idea on breaking the class into three groups. Great strategy!

  2. I love the idea of using different numbers of sticks for different students...Wish I had known that when I taught 2-3.