Hard questions? Avoided.
Targeted discussion? Dodged.
Pulling faces at the other pupils staring into the room? A resounding success! (I recall one boy getting sent out the class for laughing - my stomach sank as I prayed he wouldn't dob me in).
Many years later, as a teacher myself, my opinions couldn't be any more opposite.
I want my students to be on the edge; "It could be me!" Whether a closed question or an open suggestion, I need you to be thinking about your next move. But sometimes I think teachers go on autopilot; we always have a 'most said name'.
I've tried all manner of laminated names and lolly-sticks, but this is my current solution...
Each place has a small number taped to the bottom corner, and it has more uses than I first thought.
As above, I wanted a way to randomly choose learners to answer a question. It is often the case that a learner is too shy to raise their hand, so an ethos where everybody can contribute, is obviously best. If they're not raising their hand because they don't understand, then we can get the support to help them! "I don't know...YET!"
The numbers are placed in numerical order, clockwise around the 5 tables; 1 starts at the first table, 2 on the second table, etc. This means that if I ask for numbers 1-5, I know I've got one person from each group. It's great to mix the children up. It helps their social skills, broadens their friendships, and allows them to learn with different people. It also prevents us having to sit with the same person all the time.
So, numbers 1, 6, 11, 16, 21 and 26 are on the same table. They are arranged so that an odd number and an even number are next to each other. Therefore, we can say..."odd number speaks first" during paired discussion, or "highest number listens" when reading our writing aloud or explaining our method. Some might say petty, but we've all had classes where valuable minutes are wasted by the children aimlessly debating such a simple choice.
Why not the lolly sticks?
We have a lot of different groups in our school; it'd take at least 3 sets of sticks to have every name included. They'd get tipped over, lost, mixed up. Hassle. The numbers count for every lesson, every pupil. We'll see how it goes.
When I first met my class, I also used these numbers to arrange their 'home seats'. Although I can read every file and enjoy every anecdote from their past teachers, until I know them and their most up-to-date behaviour, it's difficult to seat strangers. Therefore, for the first week, we agreed the first person in the register sits at number 1, the second at number 2, and so on. It turns out every 5th person is a boy! The horror! Just imagine. A table of boys. No calm girls to keep them in check, model being quiet, get them off the topic of football and Xbox!?!
Needless to say that changed very quickly.