How to avoid favouring the best students.
When teaching it is always very easy to always pick on the student that has their hand up with a ready answer for you, but this is a form of favouritism. It is important to remember that your job entails keeping the entire class engaged. The traditional method of picking the student with their hand in the air, is not always the best as it will not engage those students who never raise their hands. Your choice of picking students to answer questions must leave enough time those students who struggle to answer to come up with the correct answer.
Remember every child in the room needs to feel valued – there are ways to ensure that you don’t always favour the best students, this article should help you use some of them in your teaching.
1  Invest in some blank lolly sticks.
The students can write their names on these, they are then put into a container and one is drawn out at random – that student gets to answer the question. This is a variation on the idea of “names out of a hat”.
2  Use a random name generator.
If you have a projector this works well. You can get programmes that will randomly generate a name for you from your class list. Failing this you can make a continually scrolling list of names in PowerPoint and stop it randomly. Again this is a variation on the idea of “names out of a hat”.
3  A ticklist of the students’ names on a clipboard.
This allows you to have a little more control over the names that are called, you can target the questions to the students that they are most appropriate for. High level questions to the high ability and vice versa.
4  The student who gives the correct answer picks the next person to answer.
The students are very good at keeping track of who has and hasn’t answered, this is an ideal way of giving them a little control over the classroom environment. They are also very good at working out who is and isn’t paying attention.
5  Alternate between boys and girls.
If you have no access to any of the above methods, and don’t have a class you can trust to pick sensibly always make sure that you vary the questions between the boys and the girls so as not to appear to have favourites.
6  Alternate between left hand side of the room and right hand side of the room.
To make it more random when using method 6 you can also vary the questions between the two sides of the room.
7  Alphabetical girls A→ Z, boys Z→A
Another method is to work through the class register, if you work in opposite directions with the students’ names it is not so obvious. Another method of hiding this is to use the students’ first names rather than surnames.
8  Random playing card or random number
Allow each student to pick a random playing card, or a number from a tray held at the entrance of the room. You can then pose the question to the student with a specific number or playing card.
9  Teams answer
This method works when you have very shy members of the class. You assign the teams – personally I tend to do this by ability. I then pose a question to one of the teams. The rule is that the entire team has the time to come up with the answer, but that each member of the team is only allowed to answer once. The other students in the room are very good at making sure this rule is adhered to.
10  Positive, positive, positive.
Regardless of who answers always try to find something positive in what they have said and praise it, otherwise they may not have the confidence to try again!
Remember every child in the room needs to feel valued – there are ways to ensure that you don’t always favour the best students, this article should help you use some of them in your teaching.
1  Invest in some blank lolly sticks.
The students can write their names on these, they are then put into a container and one is drawn out at random – that student gets to answer the question. This is a variation on the idea of “names out of a hat”.
2 
If you have a projector this works well. You can get programmes that will randomly generate a name for you from your class list. Failing this you can make a continually scrolling list of names in PowerPoint and stop it randomly. Again this is a variation on the idea of “names out of a hat”.
3
This allows you to have a little more control over the names that are called, you can target the questions to the students that they are most appropriate for. High level questions to the high ability and vice versa.
4
The students are very good at keeping track of who has and hasn’t answered, this is an ideal way of giving them a little control over the classroom environment. They are also very good at working out who is and isn’t paying attention.
5
If you have no access to any of the above methods, and don’t have a class you can trust to pick sensibly always make sure that you vary the questions between the boys and the girls so as not to appear to have favourites.
6  Alternate between left hand side of the room and right hand side of the room.
To make it more random when using method 6 you can also vary the questions between the two sides of the room.
7
Another method is to work through the class register, if you work in opposite directions with the students’ names it is not so obvious. Another method of hiding this is to use the students’ first names rather than surnames.
8
Allow each student to pick a random playing card, or a number from a tray held at the entrance of the room. You can then pose the question to the student with a specific number or playing card.
9
This method works when you have very shy members of the class. You assign the teams – personally I tend to do this by ability. I then pose a question to one of the teams. The rule is that the entire team has the time to come up with the answer, but that each member of the team is only allowed to answer once. The other students in the room are very good at making sure this rule is adhered to.
10
Regardless of who answers always try to find something positive in what they have said and praise it, otherwise they may not have the confidence to try again!
