Calling on Students Creatively

There are a million reasons for calling on students randomly, and about a million different techniques you can use to call on them. I’ve tried the whole gamut, from popsicle sticks to color codes and even fancy apps, but here’s a new trick that my students absolutely loved.

Sometimes my students are just dying to participate in an activity. That’s great, but it means the turns have to move quickly and seamlessly. I knew this French 1 activity would be one where hands start flying in the air, so I thought I’d spice things up a bit.

This activity involves a big bank of picture cards magnetically clipped to the board. Students follow a classmate’s directions for choosing a picture from the bank and placing it somewhere on the board. It’s always a fun activity, but there are lots of pictures and lots of students. I really wanted to be able to sit back and enjoy the show this time.

The trick I came up with puts the activity completely in students’ hands. I’m totally free to watch participants and observers from anywhere in the room and keep everyone involved in this activity that can go on for quite a while. The trick? I wrote each student’s name under one of the pictures, and the name is revealed when a student moves the picture out of the bank. The speaker moves to the next role (working at the board), and the new speaker is whoever’s name just appeared. Best of all, there was one extra picture, so I got to add myself into the mix too. The students really enjoyed getting to call on me for a change!

I used this trick on a chalkboard, but it can just as easily be created on an interactive board, with moveable objects placed on top of names typed into the slide.

It’s a bit of extra work, especially if you have large classes or quick turnarounds from one class to the next, but it’s definitely worth trying now and then. Surprise and intrigue are always great in a foreign language class, and this is an easy way to add a dash of interest to an activity that might lose its luster after a few minutes.

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