“Nope, not quite. Stay standing,” was my response to the student who answered my call-out question but just didn’t get out the more complete answer I needed. I went to the next student, “Melissa, what is your answer to that question?” Melissa answered correctly. I told her, “Excellent, you can sit down.” I then went back to the student who didn’t answer correctly, “Okay, you heard what Melissa just said. Try your answer again.” This time he got the answer right and I told him he could also sit down.
Stand Up and Be Counted
If you are involved in sports, you have probably already heard of pepper drills and understand their value. We can use this same idea in education as one of the knowledge-cementing engaged learning activities we do after each ten-minute lecture portion in our classes (see more about 10-minute lectures at Elkin’s 10-2 rule). There are several different ways to do an activity like this.
When I do pepper drills, I use the following method:
1. I prepare quiz-questions for each teaching section or sometimes for the whole class I will be teaching that day. The questions involve critical thinking and application of the information-presented and not just a random rote memorization and recall of the information.
2. At the start of class, all of the students write their names onto slips of paper and then drop them into a cup. This becomes my “call-out question” cup.
3. At the end of the lecture portion or at the end of the class itself, I tell all the students to stand up for the pepper drill.
4. I draw names from the cup and ask the questions from the quiz sheet.
5. If a student answers correctly, they get to sit down. If they answer incorrectly or incompletely, they stay standing and the question goes to the next name in the cup. When the question is answered correctly by another student, the student who missed the question is re-asked the same question so they can answer correctly and sit down.
Isn’t This Intimidating to Students?
The randomly being called on can seem scary to some students but they adapt quickly. You will also find that knowing they will be cold-called to answer a question rather than opting into the process by raising their hand has students paying much more attention. If you think you may be called on at any moment, you are engaged and listening more intently in case you are the next one to be put on the spot.
I first encountered the ideas of no opt-out, cold-calling, and a pepper drills in the book Teach Like a Champion by Doug Lemov. It's written for grade and high-school teachers but I've found much of the information can be applied to adults. It should be required reading for anyone standing up in front of a classroom regardless of the age of the students.
Add pepper drills into your instructional design to ensure retention and to function as a good comprehensive group information review in your classes.
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