On a couple of occasions this year, I’ve found myself talking to colleagues about using a random name generator in their classes. This has often been in response to queries over how to deal with more dominant learners and ensure that our attention is given equally to all learners when nominating.
There are a number of ways for random nomination to work in the classroom. You can use an online name generator, such as the one on Barry Fun English, though you need to set up an account in order to edit the class list and pay for full access. Alternatively, good old slips of paper with names on in a hat are a free, non-tech option!
However, one of the problems with randomly picking a learner is exactly that – it’s random. As teachers, we can identify the stronger and weaker learners in our classes and can nominate suitably, allowing weaker learners the chance to answer when we feel more confident that they have the correct answer (and with effective monitoring, we’ll know for sure if they have the right answer!). Similarly, we might ask a quieter learner to answer when the required response is longer.
It is very easy though for our classes and our attention to be focussed more on dominant learners when nominating as they often clearly have their hand up (and may even be straining out of their seats in their eagerness to answer) or make a vocal demonstration of their desire to respond. This is where nomination cards can come in handy.
You may choose to use a very basic technique – simply give every learner three coloured pieces of card and each time they respond during the lesson, take one card away. This will restrict stronger learners, allowing weaker learners the opportunity to be more involved. However, what happens when your stronger learners have used up their three cards and the quieter or weaker learners are left with theirs? Similarly to a random name generator, this could put pressure on those learners if they feel they are being forced to respond, or cause conflict if a dominant learner then challenges them on their ability to respond.
Tekhnologic posted this idea on using nomination cards which give learners more autonomy when discussing topics in groups. The idea behind the cards is that teachers can often become too involved in discussions as they try to involve all learners and so by passing the impetus of maintaining the conversation onto the learners and with the help of the prompts on the cards, the teacher can take a secondary position and feel confident that all group members will speak.
I think you could easily adapt these cards to be used as nomination cards during whole group activities in the classroom, both when conducting feedback on an activity and in other situations. You could combine the basic idea of having some cards which allow the holder to answer, but then also add in extra cards similar to those tekhnologic created, thereby allowing learners the opportunity to nominate another learner if they feel unable to answer.