Quick Ideas

Want an ice-breaker? Need a way to liven things up very quickly?  Want to get the entire class engaged?  Try these uses of classroom polling:

I)  Ice-breaker

After you have started the i>clicker program and before you start your class lecture, start an i>clicker poll, but do not ask a question of the class.  Display the results graph.  It will start out as an empty graph.  Now, ask your students to all choose one response – it does not matter which one.  The graph will now have a varying number of votes for the five choices.  This will only take a few seconds.  Here is where the fun starts: Ask the class to choose their responses so that all of five choices are evenly distributed.  Watch as the lesser-chosen responses jump up very quickly in number. This will repeat itself for a few seconds as most of the students quickly try to choose the responses that need to be evened out.  Just as quickly, many students will realize that as fewer and fewer students respond, the distribution can be leveled by just a few responses.  When they reach equal responses and the students stop, a loud roar of approval will ensue.  Everyone had a part in this very fast cooperative effort and they will take pride in their achievement.

To summarize, the steps for this fun exercise is:

  1. Start i>clicker and choose your course
  2. Start a poll, without asking a question
  3. Display the results graph
  4. Ask all students to choose one response, irregardless of which one is chosen
  5. Now ask the class to make the responses evenly distributed, “Make the graph level for all responses”
  6. Watch as the class makes the responses spike and fall until they realize how to even them out
  7. Congratulate students on their accomplishment

II) Team collaboration

Ask students to organize themselves into teams (3-4 students each).  Teams remain the same throughout the semester and work together outside of class on homework.  In lecture, ask students to sit with their team members.  The instructor asks a question and directs teams to discuss the item.  A poll is taken and all teams cast one vote each to the question, results are displayed and each team presents their view, which is then opened up to class discussion.


III) Increase student awareness of their own comprehension

Display a question to all students on material known to be difficult and then eliminate one answer choice at a time.  Each time, ask students to “think again, now that the choices are narrowed.”   Students can either submit or not submit their votes as instructor chooses.
Comments from faculty:   Upon display of the correct answer, I’ll see them slap their foreheads and exclaim, ‘Aw, I should’ve got that!’  They are participating more, which is a wonderful moment for a teacher.


IV) Foster pair discussion

Poll students on an opinion (non factual) question and display all answers.  After students see all answers, ask them to find someone who answered differently than they did and to persuade that student.   Optional: Open to class discussion.


V) Obtain student input that informs discussion

Ask a polling question and a offer 3-4 answer choices.   After the question is answered, direct students to generate answers that are not, but should have been, included in answer choices.  Instructors share that this method provides information on the ways in which students are approaching the material.

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