Whew! I made it through Halloween! Fortunately, the holiday fell on a Friday, so I sent all my kiddos home to gorge on candy all weekend long. And it was a long weekend because I got to set my clock back one hour. Woo-hoo! An extra hour! It’s like being able to wear jeans on Friday – having that extra hour just energizes me. 🙂
A New Model of Evaluation
Another way I gain energy is by thinking. I’m an introvert, so being reflective and introspective is second nature to me. What I’ve been giving a lot of thought to lately is the new evaluation model being used in my school. My school district, like so many others, has adopted a new teacher evaluation model based on Robert Marzano’s research into effective teaching practices. Change always has an unsettling effect on people, but I think I’m okay with this new direction. It’s very goal-oriented, which fits in perfectly with my personality. I love me a goal, and I recently accomplished a big one – I am debt-free! Now, every time my Teachers Pay Teachers app makes a cha-ching sound, I think, “That’s money in the bank!”
Response Rate Strategies
But I digress…within my personal goal of differentiated instruction, I had to choose a focus. That makes sense because each goal is HUGE – way too much for one person to integrate into their teaching repertoire meaningfully. Once you narrow down your focus, you write a goal and outline a few strategies to help you reach that goal. To this former special education teacher, it was a lot like writing an IEP objective for myself. No problem. So my focus is on using response rate strategies to increase student engagement. What is that, you ask? I asked myself that same question. Turns out, some of it I do already, and some of it is new to me. After reading the next several blog posts, maybe you will think the same way.
Random Calling on Students
According to Marzano and Pickering in The Highly Engaged Classroom, one strategy for increasing student engagement through questioning is calling on students in a random manner. Or as I call it, the ol’ Popsicle-in-a-Can method.
Doug Lemov in Teach Like a Champion refers to it as Technique #22 – Cold Call – from the section about engaging students in your lessons. Whatever you want to name it, the basic method is still the same – calling on students to answer randomly.
First, I like to let students know in advance that I will be calling on them in random order at the start of the lesson. This way, everyone knows upfront that anyone could be called on to answer, so everyone needs to “have their head in the game.” Here are a few more variations on the theme you might consider:
- Seating Chart – instead of popsicle sticks, use a paper seating chart attached to a clipboard and call on students randomly. Put a check or tally mark next to each name to track your questioning.
- App Versions – there are several apps for smartphones that are similar to pulling a popsicle stick from a can. These apps range in price, but also have extra features like choosing question types or recording a student’s answer so you can monitor their accuracy.
- First or Follow-Up – you can randomly call on students as your first option when questioning begins, or you can use it to follow-up on a student’s initial response. This variation is similar to response chaining, a strategy I will focus on in a later post.
- Timing – when using a random approach, make sure you pause briefly before saying a student’s name. This increases the level of engagement, but also gives students some wait time (yet another response rate strategy…stay tuned!) in which to formulate their answer. You want to randomly call on students briskly, but not so fast that there’s no time to think.
- Prep for Success – for those students with processing delays or language impairments, you can facilitate their participation by giving them a signal that their name will be called. While not a truly random event, some students need that extra bit of prep time before answering. I like to use a nonverbal, discreet signal that I’ve worked out ahead of time with a select group of kids. A wink, a tug on my ear, or a quick tap to my nose while making eye contact with a student lets him or her know that their name will be called next.
Knowing vs. Doing
So maybe right about now, you’re thinking to yourself, “Doesn’t every teacher know this?!” Probably. It isn’t rocket surgery! But there’s a world of difference between knowing a strategy and using a strategy routinely and effectively. If random calling of students is already in your teacher toolbox…great. You rock. And if it’s getting a little rusty, why not take it out, dust it off and give it a fresh try.