Don't call on me!

I'm going to start reading Embedded Formative Assessment this summer. Some of my colleagues are already deep into the book and are inspiring me to continue. This post got me thinking about something I tried this year and like.

Equity sticks are popular. But they are not my favorite. The aforementioned blog post also expresses doubts about their use, as they don't always help discriminate who is called, regardless of how difficult the question is. Here's what I do instead.

I keep a jar of highlighters on my front desk by my seating chart. For extra ease of use, I have pens that click open with a push on the top--no caps to deal with. As I call on students, I use a yellow highlighter and put a slash across their name on my seating chart. Once everyone has a yellow slash, I switch to a different color and make the dash run the other way. This continues until my seating chart is filled with psychedelic asterisks. I can't always last all 5 colors before printing new charts, but it is surprisingly easy to spy which students have yet to be called on.

The big advantage to this system is that I can more carefully choose when I call on each student, while still ensuring that every student participates. If I have a student who aces everything, I can throw them my most challenging question. I often have students work with their partners and/or groups before I call on them. Then I will call on weaker students, who just a chance to gather their thoughts and get some help before they participate.