Monday, June 20, 2005

Cold Calling is Hot Stuff

Pick a card, any card. On Monday of this week, I employed a teaching strategy known as Cold Calling. Essentially, you write the name of each of your students on an index card, and when you have a question that needs answering, or are in need of a volunteer for an assignment, you simply turn to your deck of cards. The fate of this unborn answer depends on how you cut the deck.

The twenty students in our classroom are typically very passive learners. I typically will call them by name and ask them to answer a question I have. I do not let students slide by like zombies in my classroom. Considering this, I was not sure how Cold Calling would benefit me. But within five minutes of using this technique, I realized that it leant a very real method to Mr. Hebert’s madness.

After announcing that I would be using card to determine who would answer questions today, I asked my students to volunteer to come to the front of the classroom and dramatize one of five vocabulary words on the board. Predictably, no one volunteered. Dramatically shuffling the cards, I selected one at random. The young man whose name was called reluctantly came to the front of the room.

I could tell Leo needed some assistance in his assignment, so I pulled another card that brought Jamie to the front of the room. Asking them which of the five words they would be acting out, they said, “I don’t know.” So again, I turned to the cards, and Miguel selected a word that they should act out. Eventually, they came up with a humorous way to illustrate the word mutilate, and took their seats.

I repeated this practice for the rest of the words, and used it later on in class to ask reading comprehension questions. Simply put, the cards worked. The students did not grumble or shoot me dirty looks when their name was called. It wasn’t even as though I were the one selecting them. The hand of fate had chosen them to answer this question about Malcolm X; the teacher just read the name out loud. Students remained on their toes and on task. The cards gathered attention but they were not a distraction. It made my normally passive crew a little more active, and was a complete success that day.

I will definitely use this method again in my regular classroom. I would not use it everyday, because that would lessen the effect of surprise cold callings. But with passive groups or on days when students are particularly lethargic, the cards will magically appear.


Blogger A. Monroe said...

Thanks for your great blogs on questioning, Reluctant Disciplinarian, and Oxford vs. Delta. You are so right about the reasons cold calling works. Using it every now and then will keep it fresh just as you said.

6:42 PM  
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