Randomizing Order in Class

Unfortunately, it is sometimes hard to get students to volunteer, so educators all have their own methods for randomizing the order in which students present or perform other tasks. Do you have students draw numbers from a hat or popsicle sticks from a jar?

I have a fantastic little line method I can do on the board that has both students and other teachers just scratching their heads, but despite how wonderful many of these low tech solutions are, they usually take up more precious class time than some other options out there.

Enter Random.org. I learned of this site from a presentation titled “It’s Okay to Have Fun in the Classroom!” by Jolene Jaquays and Sara Okello from The University of Michigan – Flint. It was one of the recorded sessions from the TESOL convention in Portland, Oregon and I am just getting around to watching some of them now.

Anyway, Random.org is pretty basic. It is completely free and all you have to do is enter a list of under 10,000 items and click randomize. If you have your class list saved, you can randomize the list in class in under 30 seconds. I usually project the screen in class so that students can see how I arrive at the order, and I have not heard any complaints.

It may be a simple thing, but anything that makes your time in class more efficient is worth considering. Do you use any other effective and efficient methods for deciding order?

About Tara Arntsen

Tara Arntsen
Tara Arntsen recently completed her Master's degree in Teaching-TESOL at the University of Southern California. She currently teaches in the Intensive English Program at Northern State University in Aberdeen, South Dakota. She has taught ESOL in China, Japan, and Cambodia as well as online. Her primary interests are communicative teaching methods and the use of technology in education.
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4 Responses to Randomizing Order in Class

  1. Kevin Knight Kevin Knight says:

    Hi Tara,

    In Japan, my favorite way to decide who goes first (in pairs or small groups) is to have the students play “janken” or “rock-scissors-paper.” The winner is the first speaker.

    When I first started teaching English to adult professionals many years ago in Japan, the students would often play “janken,” and the loser would have to speak first. Over the years, I have tried to get my students to associate “winning” and “speaking English.” That is why I tell them that the winner speaks first.

    Japanese play this game from childhood so they usually have a strong desire to win. It’s fun to watch learners of any age play.


    • Tara Arntsen Tara Arntsen says:

      Hi Kevin,

      That’s great that you are able to use something students are already so familiar with. I really like that you have put a positive spin on it by having the winner go first. Thanks for sharing!


  2. Susan says:

    So I am not clear on the purpose of randomizing your student class list and then showing it. Are you showing them that you are randomizing their names, so you can ensure all students have a chance to respond or participate in some way?
    Thank you!

    • Tara Arntsen Tara Arntsen says:

      Good question, Susan! I suggest randomizing the class list to determine the order in which students do things, such as give presentations to the class. My last name begins with an ‘a’ so in my experience, that meant that I was either going first or last because instructors often just went in alphabetical order. That’s not random at all! By randomizing your class list for assignments, the order in completely random every time and students perceive it to be fair.

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