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

Updated on February 27, 2020

Classroom Management

Video Guide

  • 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


Randomization Techniques

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

Colored popsicle sticks and a simple popcorn bucket are a fun way to add randomization strategies in your classroom.
Colored popsicle sticks and a simple popcorn bucket are a fun way to add randomization strategies in your classroom. | Source

Video: 1:00 - 3:15

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.

Game Cards

Game cards with student's names is a fun randomization technique. Have students pick a card to find out who's turn is next. Shuffle them as you walk around the room.
Game cards with student's names is a fun randomization technique. Have students pick a card to find out who's turn is next. Shuffle them as you walk around the room. | Source

Video: 3:15 - 4:20

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

Color wheels with a spinner are great for choosing questions or students.
Color wheels with a spinner are great for choosing questions or students. | Source

Video: 4:20 - 5:25

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.)

Colored Card-Stock

Flash cards made with colored card-stock work great with the colored spinners above.
Flash cards made with colored card-stock work great with the colored spinners above. | Source

Video: 5:25 - 6:15

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.

Random Questioning

Randomized questioning with words like who, what, when, where, how and why keeps your students focused on the content of their reading material.
Randomized questioning with words like who, what, when, where, how and why keeps your students focused on the content of their reading material. | Source
I have my flashcards posted on the corner of my whiteboard. The yellow card says, Prove It! The smaller cards say, Strategies and Critical Thinking. I point to these cards often.
I have my flashcards posted on the corner of my whiteboard. The yellow card says, Prove It! The smaller cards say, Strategies and Critical Thinking. I point to these cards often. | Source

Video: 6:15 - 7:15

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!

Final Thoughts

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!

© 2012 Marisa Hammond Olivares


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    • profile image

      Melisa Kwashira 

      21 months ago

      thank you. super helpful

    • profile image

      Rebecca Jasinski 

      21 months ago

      THANK YOU!!! This is exactly what I needed to help my team randomize. I love the color coded popsicle sticks :)

    • missolive profile imageAUTHOR

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 

      6 years ago from Texas

      Kristine Manley, Thank you! I appreciate your comment and your shares.

      vandynegl, hi there! Thank you so very much for sharing your insights. Keeping all of our students on task at all times is not exactly easy, but it is essential to their needs. Besides, I myself get easily distracted and I can only imagine how our young minds wander while we teach. Glad to have had you read and comment.

    • vandynegl profile image


      6 years ago from Ohio Valley

      These are all excellent ideas!!! My son just started Kindergarten and now I am curious to know how she involves participation. I am also a teacher too, and will keep these ideas in mind. I like the random card drawings, as well as the color coded cards to have groups work on the questions. Both keep the kids involved and retaining more information.

    • Kristine Manley profile image

      Donna Kristine 

      6 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Wonderful Hub! What great teaching tools. I'm sharing this Hub.

    • missolive profile imageAUTHOR

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 

      7 years ago from Texas

      summerberries, thank you! You made my day.

      Tina TrueLove, glad to share, thank you for reading.

      Nell Rose, hi Nell! Thank you so much for your supportive comment. Glad to see you. I appreciate the votes and shares.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      7 years ago from England

      Wonderful hub MissOlive, such great ideas that every teacher should use, voted up and shared! nell

    • profile image

      Tina Truelove 

      7 years ago

      Great Hub! Thanks for sharing!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Wow!What a treat to watch! Great ideas.

    • missolive profile imageAUTHOR

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 

      7 years ago from Texas

      cclitgirl, it is amazing how these little tricks and techniques help guide a lesson. I'm glad to hear you have also incorporated a few of these ideas. I bet you are a wonderful teacher. You have definitely taught me a thing or two.

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      7 years ago from Western NC

      These are must-have tools for EVERY teacher. I actually used the popsicle stick idea and I'd also use index cards with names and the kids would tell me stuff about themselves on the back, along with a parent phone number for positive (and negative) phone calls. :)

    • missolive profile imageAUTHOR

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 

      8 years ago from Texas

      jpcmc, awesome! I look forward to it. :)

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 

      8 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      I'll conduct a safety training next week and I'll try some of these randomization techniques. I'll keep you posted. :)

    • missolive profile imageAUTHOR

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 

      8 years ago from Texas

      jpcmc, I was a trainer and manager long before I became a public school teacher. How I wish I had discovered these techniques before. Our principal uses these techniques in our trainings and they definitely are fun and keep you on your toes. I can't wait to hear how your next training goes. Thank you for sharing your idea and for reading.

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 

      8 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      These are wonderful ideas. I'm a trainer by profession and getting my participants to talk can sometimes be difficult. These techniques though designed for the school setting can be adapted for training settings as well. I can't wait to use them.

    • missolive profile imageAUTHOR

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 

      8 years ago from Texas

      billybuc, there is no greater compliment - thank you Bill. I have no doubt you were a wonderful teacher. In fact, you are still teaching us here. Thanks for being you.

      sholland10, Hi Susan, thank you so much. Yes, these techniques can be applied in all levels of education. I can even see these being used by adults at employee trainings. Anything that is fun and keeps us on our toes is worth trying. Thank you so much for your wonderful comment and compliments. You rock!

      yssubramanyam, thank you. Innovation is what we all need to keep up with the times. Glad you liked it.

      wayseeker, wow! Thanks so much! These techniques have worked nicely for me. They seem so simple but the effects are amazing. Let me know how it goes. By the way, I'm sure you run an amazing classroom regardless of these techniques. :)

      Tsmog, Hi Tim! Shazam is right! lol I'm glad to know the years of college have paid off. I had never planned on being a school teacher but I eventually took the plunge and have enjoyed it ever since. Thanks for forwarding the info and for leaving me such a delightful comment. :)

      iamaudraleigh, Thank you so much Audra. I'm very happy that you have found this useful and easy to read. I appreciate the votes. :)

      Teresa Coppens, these strategies do work wonders and I have lots of fun with my students when they get competitive. Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to leave such a lovely comment. I appreciate the votes.

      melbel, you are so awesome Melanie. I LOVE the 'teacher store' and could spend hours there. I know I would have enjoyed it as a kid too. I find it interesting how you did not feel that the grade-book method didn't feel truly randomized. And that is the whole point of these techniques - just by using popsicle sticks your perspective and attention changed. Thanks for your great comment and support. You and your social networking skills has always amazed me.....not to mention your amazing mind and many talents.

      sriparna, thank you so much. Give these a try to I'm sure you will be pleased with the results.

      rebeccamealey, you are quite welcome and thank you! :)

      kelleyward, send em' over! I'd love to teach your kiddos! Thanks for sharing and commenting. :)

      realhousewife, hey Kelly! Great idea, I could use color chips from the hardware store! hahaha The problem is I'd want to keep remodeling and painting my home. :) Thanks so much for stopping by to read and for leaving your great comment. You always make my day.

      kthix10, ohhhh a computerized randomizer sounds neat. I'll have to search for one. I wonder if they have them as apps for iPads yet? Thanks for the comment and the idea. :)

      randomcreative, thanks so much. I'm glad you liked this. I'm thrilled you came by.

      StephanieBCrosby, awwwww thank you! Who says teaching can't be fun? Ok, so I CAN get a bit silly at times but I really enjoy what I do. I'm glad you liked the techniques. :)

      teaches12345, I agree with you. These techniques could work with any age level. The beauty is that they are flexible and you can make it work for your content area and your level of students or even for employees. I appreciate the vote.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      8 years ago

      I think these ideas would work in a college classroom as well.. just need to up it a little. Very creative ideas that will help a teacher to instill interest in learning. Voted up.

    • StephanieBCrosby profile image

      Stephanie Bradberry 

      8 years ago from New Jersey

      Well Miss Olive has done it again. You created a very engaging hub that captures important elements of keeping students engaged without become silly or losing the importance of actually teaching and not just doing something fun and creative. There is great use for the techniques you mention.

    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 

      8 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Awesome resource for teachers and parents! You can apply so many of these techniques to so many different aspects of the classroom.

    • kthix10 profile image


      8 years ago from IL

      Great ideas, I have used the Popsicle stick one several times. Lately with technology I was able to find a online randomizer that would say the kids names - they would get so excited when the computer read their name, even if it wasn't pronounced exactly

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 

      8 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Hey MO - those are really great ideas! When I watched the video and you had the color cards - they reminded me of those sample color paint cards - my children LOVE playing with those! You might be able to get enough different colors for an entire class in a paint store.

      Loved the video and the hub! I think anything you can do to keep your kids attention engaged is terrific! I could just imagine the kids perking up when you grabbed the popcorn container...seems like a clever way to get them to listen closer!!

      UP and everything else!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      If only my kids could be in your class??? This is an excellent resource for teachers! I'll share this with my friends who are teachers! Pinned, voted up, and useful! Take care, Kelley

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 

      8 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      The pop sickle stick idea is a good way to keep up with the various abilities in the class! Thanks for the share!

    • sriparna profile image


      8 years ago from New Delhi

      Excellent hub, I will try some of these randomization techniques in my classroom. Thanks a lot!

    • melbel profile image


      8 years ago from Midwest, USA

      Wow! This is an awesome hub! I love the video, it's really informative. Reminds me of this teaching store that used to be in town when I was a kid. My sister and I always made my mom take us there and we would spend gobs of time looking at the science stuff and all the workbooks. We sure were weird kids!

      Awesome techniques. I only had one teacher that I remember that used a randomization technique. Popsicle sticks, but all one color. Definitely kept us on our toes, though. Most of my other teachers went through the grade book, but for some reason I never felt like it was random.

      I didn't know teachers got information about their students at the beginning of the school year. It kind of makes me wonder what they said about me!

      Fab hub! Rated up, pinned, tweeted, and all that fun stuff reserved for awesome hubs. :P

    • Teresa Coppens profile image

      Teresa Coppens 

      8 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Awesome ideas for getting the most participation out of every student. It's an incredible method for bringing out the best in all members of a class. Voted up and shared.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I wish I had teachers like you.

      You wrote a great hub that I can follow easily. It is well structured and informative.

      Voted up!!!

    • tsmog profile image

      Tim Mitchell 

      8 years ago from Escondido, CA

      Not fair not fair I cry. I'm a little magical & mystical missolive, forgive me . . .I bounced here seeking some time in the playground and a bit of catching up. What I discovered so professionally presented was a wonderful story full of answers to mysteries, intriguing questions with answers, and just maybe a new TV show.

      Shazzzzzaaaam is all I can say while adding a dash of remembering sesame and the door did open wide and far. I got more than a two for one deal with this hub of yours. Seems a whole college degree can be discovered once the dues are paid. I really appreciate the attention to detail and all the little hints too. I'm going to forward this to my sis (in law by email for her to see) and of course share it with many others too.

      Oh, I really liked the usage of primary thinking about all the great grades. Well done, what time will be the next broadcast?


    • wayseeker profile image


      8 years ago from Colorado

      Miss Olive,

      How awesome! I'm looking for some ways this summer to "shake up" the way I run my classroom, and these are perfect. The video makes everything clear, and I LOVE the time-stamped table of contents. This one has been marked so I can return to it later when I have a little more time.

      This is a great resource for teachers. Nice work!


    • yssubramanyam profile image


      8 years ago from india, nellore. andhrapradesh

      good hub. voluntary dedication in teaching profession is divine. you really got innovative attitude.

    • sholland10 profile image

      Susan Holland 

      8 years ago from Southwest Missouri

      These randomization techniques are so awesome and easy. I will definitely be trying these techniques in my classroom. What I really like is that all teachers can use these from K - 12. Great information and video. I love your video sequence! Votes and shares!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      8 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Well researched and well presented. I have no doubt that you are a wonderful teacher. Great hub!


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