Why I will never use lolly sticks in my classroom.

Because, well, reasons.

I’m sure there are great reasons to use lolly sticks, or other randomisers – it creates a culture where everyone is expected to be attentive, or to articulate their thinking at any time or something. You may have great success with them in your classroom. That’s fine. Don’t tell me I have to, and here are a few reasons why.

  1. It removes my judgement as to who I need to ask about a question. I realised this when going through a re-arranging homework with a class. There was one student who had different looking answers to many questions, and I realised this when he put his hand up and answered a question. It presented a perfect opportunity for discussion about multiplication, division and the order we do steps in re-arranging formulae. It also turned out there were other students with similar looking answers who didn’t speak out. If I only selected at random and did not allow students to put their hands up, there’s a chance I miss this and two bad things happen: We miss out on a valuable learning experience and some students go away thinking their method is wrong, when it’s right.
  2. I taught a student with anxiety issues recently. Her biggest fear in college was that she would be called upon to answer a question and have to speak out in front of the class, particularly if she wasn’t certain of the answer. While it’s a good thing to help students overcome these fears, causing them misery and anxiousness because they might be called on at any point in a situation out of their control doesn’t seem like the best way to do that.
  3. An answer to the above is that I could just not include her name in my randomiser and that solves the problem. Seems like an elegant solution right? I remove the possibility she could ever be asked to answer. I also remove the possibility she could ever choose to answer as well. I essentially remove the opportunity for them to overcome their anxiety. That student above, about March time that year, she answered a question in class. A month later, she answered when she wasn’t sure she was right. If her name isn’t on the lolly stick, maybe she never gets that chance.
  4. That culture of attention and preparation, it’s also a culture of uncertainty. If you’ve ever been to a TeachMeet where they randomise the order of the presentations, you’ll know what I mean. Every time the randomiser spins you’re adrenaline starts pumping; will I be called to do my 2mins; will it go alright; will I forget my opening line, my carefully thought out response to a question at the end? By the time is gets to you 45mins later, you’re already exhausted. If it can happen to us, people who are used to speaking in front of an audience, think how it might feel for students in the room.

I guess the bottom line for me, is that I don’t find it helpful. Some people might. But like a lot of things in education, just because it works for you, doesn’t mean I should have to do it.

This entry was posted in Assessment, Classroom, Not Maths, Pedagogy. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Why I will never use lolly sticks in my classroom.

  1. Some really good reasons there. I don’t use them primarily because I’m a klutz and would send them flying across the room all the time!

    As for anxiety-induced exhaustion, I once ‘competed’ for a place on a secondary science course and was placed at the back of the list of presentations. I spent the whole day simultaneously listening to fantastic, emotion-filled presentations (somebody actually read a bloody poem about how wonderful children were) and worrying about my own presentations. Needless to say, my own presentation fell on its arse because I was a nervous wreck, my mouth so dry and my heart rate so fast that I could barely speak.

    • nik_d_maths says:

      It’s an awful experience isn’t it? I hadn’t thought of the clumsy aspect… Given how often I drop board pens and walk into desks, probably also a good reason!

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