USING EQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION TECHNIQUES OR: “How I got from Blue Whales to Environmental Disaster- A Year 8 Story” by a Science NQT

“Eurrrrooough” is not just the noise made by a yodeller falling off a mountain, it is the noise year 8 make when they see me reach for lollipop sticks. They know that not one of them is safe from being asked a question. Furthermore, they think it is always random chance that their name is being called out. This is still a crucial part of the method – they must always be ready to answer, and thus be formulating good responses in their heads as well as getting used to sharing ideas/contributing – all good, transferable, learning skills.

Though the sticks can be used simply as above (to great effect) with each students name on the stick – pulled out during Q and A sessions, or to do student leadership tasks etc. my use of these recently evolved into something that could (unbeknown to students) help me assess/modify my differentiated questioning during the course of a lesson, topic by topic.

Producing the sticks requires about 45 minutes, lolly sticks, a class list, a scalpel and selotape. Here are some I made earlier.



This is the 3rd generation of lolly pop stick; the first had a few sticks missing, the second were solid but not as useful. The redux edition have coded student information on, and will have targets/attained grades on. If I drop these sticks, students will never see confidential information about each other. It just looks like a name with shaded squares next to it.

Those grey and dark grey squares are information on the student, FSM/SEN/HPA/PP/EAL, the colours are very random, deliberately so. Having thought about colour coding for each status, a problem emerged with what about a student that was both EAL and HPA.

Using the sticks is easy, pull a stick, read a name and aim a question at that student. The whole process can be used as a way of gaining thinking time for everyone. To ‘borrow’ from a recent INSET you Pose (a question, don’t start throwing shapes), Pause, Pick a name, Bounce.
If you are good at sleight of hand you can, and you wanted, to deliberately choose a student, rather than leaving it to fate, or look at the name and then ask the question suitable for that child.

The last step occurs AFTER a questioning portion of the lesson. I place the sticks into 3 invisible piles, I think of them as red, amber and green. Greens have understood and give suitable answers, ambers haven’t demonstrated total understanding or lack vocabulary, and the reds grasp the basics but not much more.

Questioning is normally done as a series of rounds, Greens being held as bank answers, students that can support the ambers, the reds get drawn into the cycle and get moved up. The students have no idea about the dance of progress that’s being played out on the desk in front of me. At the end of each round of questioning, misconceptions are challenged and corrected.

The lollipops lend themselves to Socratic questioning. For example, this morning we discussed the impact of an oil spill we agreed that it was bad but they didn’t understand why, so, if oil is spilled at sea what effect does it have on wildlife (not including them getting covered in oil)?

I have seen my class’s progress and discussion skills improve greatly and am always looking for ways to improve their use. I’m looking forward to trialling similar techniques with other classes.

See below for example questions:


Please comment below and share your lolly-stick techniques/comments/thoughts/ideas.


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