Teaching Methods: Randomization Techniques in the Classroom, Includes Examples and Video

  • 0 – 1:00 Introduction
  • 1:00 – 3:15 Colored Popsicle Sticks
  • 3:15 – 4:20 Game Cards
  • 4:20 – 5:25 Color Wheels
  • 5:25 – 6:15 Colored Card-Stock
  • 6:15 – 7:15 Randomized Questioning
  • 7:15 – 7:45 Review and Closing Statements

All of the randomization techniques described below are discussed in the video above. Randomization techniques are a great way to keep your students focused and engaged in the topics you are covering in class. Randomization techniques also improve content retention and classroom camaraderie.

Why is randomization important? Randomization is an important teaching tool for any classroom. We all have students that are extroverts and eager to respond. We also have students that are shy and reluctant to raise their hand and participate. Without randomization techniques your quiet students might be left behind and you will miss gaining valuable feedback. Every child should be potentially assessed during your lesson. If you begin using randomization techniques as a norm in your classroom you will create a standard and an increased level of awareness and content retention with your students. Once students begin to realize that they may be called on at any given moment they generally will actively improve their levels of awareness and interest.

Note: be sure to provide plenty of positive praise and encouragement for all students, especially those that are characteristically reluctant to participate. Once students realize what is expected of them they will gain confidence with each random question that is asked and completed. Maintaining this level of standard will help promote academic growth in your content area.

Praise, fun and encouragement are key!

Colored popsicle sticks are a great way to create randomized questioning for your students as well as a cue for your style of questioning. Teachers are usually provided with a large amount of academic data for each student. My suggestion is to color code your students based on academic needs. Colored popsicle sticks usually come in six colors: orange, blue, green, yellow, purple and red.

Here is a suggestion for six categories for your colored popsicle sticks:

  • Special Ed.
  • ESL (English as a Second Language)
  • Dyslexia
  • Retained
  • ADD/ADHD (Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)
  • Failed standardized test during the previous year

Assign the colors to fit the needs of your classroom and the academic needs of your students. Write the names of the students on the respective colored popsicle stick. During lessons you can randomly select a popsicle stick from your popsicle bucket or you can select a colored popsicle stick that represents a group of students you want to evaluate. Since the students know you may select their popsicle stick the result is they pay more attention to the material and retain the content because they want to be sure they know the answers if they are randomly called on. Trust me, it works! Be sure to adapt your style of questioning in a way that fits the academic needs of the respective student that was chosen. Once the year goes on the color cues will become easier for you and the students will be more keen and aware of the content.


Another option for assigning colors is to use a simple high, medium, low standard. You will only need three colors for this option.


  • Red – low scores.
  • Yellow – medium scores.
  • Green – high scores.

The advantage of this variation comes with the creation of peer groups. It has been found if groups contain three levels of understanding the lower student is more apt to learn from the medium and high student. Also, the higher student will not feel frustrated with the low student because the medium student balances the group. I have applied this technique in the classroom and have found that my low students gain understanding and confidence when grouped with a slightly higher level student.

Most of us have a mismatched set of game cards lying around at home. If not, game cards are usually available at the dollar store. All you need to do is write down the names of your students on the face of the card or print them out on labels and stick them on.

Game cards are fun because they add variety to how you shuffle the cards and select the next student. You can have students pick a card or have them shuffle the cards for you. The options and variations are endless.

Another idea is to have the student select who is next by following the number they picked. For example, if they pick a three I can quickly say, pick the 3rd person in your row, or if they picked a five I might say, ok, you get to answer number five. The whole idea is to keep it fast and exciting. Kids like the game-like aspect and are more apt to pay attention if they feel a sense of friendly competition.

Color wheels are fun and definitely random. There are a variety of ways you can include a colored spinner in your classroom.

Ideas and variations:

  • Assign teams by color and have a contest before a test. Spin the wheel to see who gets to answer the next question.
  • Have colored flash cards ready with questions. Have the student spin the spinner. Wherever the spinner lands is the colored flash card they need to select and answer.
  • Create a gallery wall with colored butcher paper. Each wall will have a portion of the content being covered. Each student spins their spinner and then responds to the gallery wall color topic they landed on.
  • Place students in a circle and have them toss a beach ball around. A volunteer spins the spinner and yells, stop! And calls out the color. The student with the ball needs to find the color on the beach ball and answer the question that is written on the beach ball. (Beach balls are available at the dollar store. You can write related questions on each colored section of the beach ball with a permanent marker.)

Pre-cut colored flash cards are available at most teacher and office supply stores or you can cut your own. Consider the topic you are teaching and decide how you would like to color categorize your questions or simply write random questions on random cards. You can use a colored spinner for added interest or you can simply have the students grab a card from a bag or basket.

Ideas and variations:

I teach reading and I like to color categorize my topics and flashcards with the following format:

  • Red – vocabulary, main idea, and supporting details.
  • Yellow – literary elements: plot, setting, foreshadow, flashback, conflict, and characterization.
  • Green – author’s purpose, compare and contrast, point-of-view, chronology, cause-and-effect.
  • Blue – style, tone, mood, and inference.

The benefits include a more organized and well-rounded group assignment. If I assign groups I can give them a question from each color stack for their presentation. This will allow all the groups to develop responses for various elements of a passage, article or novel.

Another idea: You can go up and down the aisles and give everyone one colored flash card. Then assign all the students to their colored group. Yellows will work on their topic and green will work on theirs and so on and so forth. Each group presents their findings to the class.

This is one of my favorite techniques to have handy. I keep orange flash cards available with the following words:

  • Who
  • What
  • When
  • Where
  • How
  • Why

Aside from the flash cards I also have these words printed, laminated and posted on my whiteboard in the front of the room. These six basic question prompts are the root to basic reading comprehension. As the year progresses the students know they need to be able to describe the content they just read through each of the question prompts. I have the option of pulling up a flash card or I simply point to one of the question prompts on the board. I do not like to fumble with a script so I immediately create a question off the top of my head. This keeps the pace fast and flexible.

Here are a few random examples:

  • Who is the main character?
  • What is the conflict in this section?
  • When did he meet his friend?
  • Where did this scene take place?
  • How did he solve the problem?
  • Why was he frustrated?

Again, these are simply random questions I created but you would want to create questions that are related to the topic you are teaching. What I’ve noticed is that as the students improve their comprehension skills they actually can begin to create their own questions off the top of their head. Eventually, I have the person that just answered the question create the question for the next person that is picked. Once I have the student’s able to create related random questions with the question prompts I know I have developed greater awareness in their reading skills. Score!

In closing, the whole idea of randomization is to keep the students aware and focused as the content is taught and reviewed. Have fun and get creative. Remember, teaching can be fun and you are the leader and the model that will guide your class through the lesson.

Happy teaching!