Calling on Students

How do you call on students (how do students call on each other)?


6 Responses to Calling on Students

  1. When I’m questioning the class as part of a formative assessment or to step through an assigned problem, I find myself using variations of the Cold Call technique ( – essentially, I set a precedent for calling on arbitrary students and using incorrect/unsure answers as a learning opportunity for the class rather than as a punitive measure or disciplinary tactic.

    Some variations of this: print out your roster and put all of the names in a cup, then pick names from the cup at random, making sure to replace each name after it’s been picked so students never feel like they’re ‘off the hook’. My favorite variation: call on an arbitrary student for them to answer a question, then ask them to choose the next person to answer. This turns the process of answering questions into something of a game – students will pick their friends to answer questions and, if modeled correctly, a positive stigma can be attached to correctly answering the question and passing to the next person. It’s also especially helpful at the beginning of the semester when I’m still learning names.

  2. Karl Mason says:

    I pretty much never ask questions to the class and get one person to answer, I have two things I do; 1 – miniwhiteboards, the greatest invention that ever happened to teaching, every person is included, all answers are seen, 2 – focus questions to small groups of students while they work.

    The reason I don’t use the answer in front of class technique is to do with the stress levels of students that are asked to answer.

  3. I Speak Math says:

    At the beginning of the year I have them write their name on a popsicle stick and then draw those out of a cup. I love the “pick your friend to answer”, esp at the beginning of the year! I also have a “phone a friend” option where you can pick someone else to answer if you do not know or do not want to answer the question.

  4. Michelle says:

    Questioning is such an important topic. I want to hear what the students think but often a class will have a couple of dynamic/outspoken students can take over the answering, and lets everyone else off the hook. When I pose a question to the class, I ask them to think to themselves first …. wait (can be painful some times but counting to 7 is a good start) and then have them share their answer with their partner. Once they’ve shared, then I choose a random student (and it definitely won’t be the person who is wildly waving their hand in the air 🙂 or more sometimes, I share the answer. In math there are so many students who have arrived feeling very unsure of their abilities that I do what I can to avoid putting any individual “on the spot”.

  5. zshiner says:

    Michelle: I absolutely love the idea of having students think about a question and having students share their answers with their partner. While reading it I had an idea and would love your (or anyone else’s) thoughts on it.

    What if you have the students share their answers with their partners, and then rather than sharing the answer yourself, ask if any students had differing answers and to share those, and/or any epiphanies students had. If no one has anything to say, you can answer the question yourself, otherwise It might be a good way to get to know exactly what students are thinking, what misconceptions they may have, and especially how a pair of students are thinking about a problem.

    I believe the success of this strategy would hinge on the norming students to embrace mistakes and confusion, but I think it could be a really useful tool.

    What have I not thought of? Where does this technique fail?

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