I choose you!

This post is about the practicalities of getting all students in your class to participate. There are some ideological arguments around ‘forcing’ students to speak in class. The argument about whether introverted students should be made to speak in class was debated some time ago on our Facebook page. We’ll leave that debate for now, but if you are interested please feel free to add your thoughts at the link.

Ultimately, it is the teacher who must build a supportive classroom environment so that all students feel safe and comfortable to speak up, and to risk making a mistake but know that that’s all part of the learning journey. But no matter how well we build our students’ confidence, regardless of the strategies we put in place to encourage student participation, there will always be those who put their hand up every time, those who cower in the corner and avoid eye contact hoping you won’t pick them, and then there are those – perhaps the majority – who don’t mind being chosen, but who aren’t going to go out of their way to volunteer.

So, here are a few simple tools for selecting students. I’d love to hear your ideas.

Random name selector apps
These apps are great tools for teachers, particularly if you can project it onto a screen for students to see. With the click of a button students will be randomly selected. Some allow you to also create random groupings of students, and some allow you to ‘assess’ each students response, generally on a simple right/wrong scale. Some incur a fee, while others are free, so look into what suits you. Here are a list of a couple, though I’m not in a position to recommend or endorse any 🙂


for iOS, try
Pick Me!
Selector spinners
Decide now!
Tap Roulette
Team Shake
Stick Pick
Teacher’s Pick
Pick a Student

for Android, try
Random Student Picker

Random name selectors for download
If you don’t have a tablet, don’t despair – there are some great applications available that you can download and use from your computer. This has the added benefit of not needing an internet connection if your server is down or slow.

The hat can also be a bucket or a treasure chest, and there’s music which I generally turn off.
No Hands random student generator

Random name selectors online
Another option if you don’t want to download files is to use an online application. The issue is that generally you will need to input your class lists each time, although this needn’t be arduous if you keep your class lists in a document that can be simply copied and pasted at the start of a lesson. Ideal if it’s not something you want to do every lesson, or if you want to try out different applications.
Person selector simple online application
Pokie pair generator generates pairs of students from your pasted list
Random student generator with cartoon people – a bit too slow for me
Instant classroom requires you to login (free), but your class lists will be saved. Also has seating plan and group generator.

Class Management systems
These systems do more than just select random students – but they do include random name and group generators . They also allow you to collect information about behaviour, keep scores, take attendance, etc.
Class Dojo

Cup and sticks Version 2.1
In the age of apps and gadgets you might be laughing at my out-dated ‘cup and sticks’ technique – but these are a must in my classrooms. Particularly for reading circles when I need to make sure all students get a turn, and I want something quick, and can walk around the room with them. Cheap, simple, and works even when the network is down or the power goes out (and this does happen out here in the ‘country’).

Mega Prize wheel
This spinning prize wheel was made by our lovely facilities manager, who is always willing to help out with projects. This wheel is a favourite with students, so much so that no one seems to mind if they get picked. It takes up a bit of time, and leads to some excitement, so it’s not used for everyday tasks but is a great tool in moderation. Numbers on the wheel match numbers on students’ desks, so it can be used with all classes.


comment_jpg OVER TO YOU …

*How do you select students?
*Have any great apps or online applications to share?
*Got some old-school techniques that your students love?
Add to the discussion in the comments below, or in our Facebook comments.

Thanks to the following awesome teachers for sharing their ideas and adding to the list:
Joe Dale (@joedale)


Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

7 thoughts on “I choose you!

  1. I recommend Triptico (triptico.co.uk) for student selector tools (including a tool to randomly group students for group activities) and a host of other games and activities which are easy to tailor to your teaching topics and the students learning needs.


      • I have the paid version. You should follow Triptico on Twitter, if you don’t already (@David_Triptico). David Riley from the UK started Triptico some years back for the benefit of his own class (English literature) and then other teachers at his school showed an interest. It has spread from there. It has only had a paid version for the last 12 months or so, but I definitely think it is worth it. Perhaps check that you can access it from your school first? Start with the free version and see how you go.


  2. Unfortunately EQ blocks Triptico. While I have asked for some help from my base school techie, he was unable to help. I use a variation on the paddle pop idea. It works well for me as I move from room to room in one of my schools. I typed all the names of my students, in a table. Copied onto card, laminated then used guillotine to efficiently cut them into strips, then finally small single names. I then put them each class in a small sealable plastic bag. I then store several classes eg 6 classes (small sealable bags within a sandwich size sealable bag) in a recycled ice cream container. For each class, I choose them randomly from the ice cream container. Students can pass (but not make a habit of this) but I come back to them later when many other students have been randomly chosen, if the objective is for all students to be speaking.


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