Equity Sticks

Popsicle Sticks

Equity Sticks are a set of sticks (usually popsicle sticks) on which the names of individual students in a class or group are written. The teacher pulls from the Equity Sticks at random when choosing students to ensure an equal chance of participation. Equity Sticks help reduce any intentional or unintentional bias a teacher may have when calling on students. Equity Sticks can be used when checking for understanding during a lesson and asking for student reflections or reactions. They can also be used when selecting students for special tasks (e.g., classroom jobs), assigning student groups, and for many more classroom choices.

Implementation Tips

Explain the reasoning behind the use of Equity Sticks to students before using them in the classroom. Introduce the Equity Sticks to students by explaining the definition of equity, why it is important, and how using Equity Sticks will help to achieve fairness and equal participation in the classroom.
Organization Tips
- Organize Equity Sticks in containers by class period if applicable.
- Use different colored sticks to differentiate between classes or groups.
- Assign students numbers and write numbers on sticks instead of names.
- Use a permanent marker to write student names or numbers to increase the longevity of the set.
Consistent Use
Use the Equity Sticks consistently when calling on students instead of having students raise their hands. Equity in the classroom increases when the sticks are used frequently. Consistent use will also help establish norms for participation and encourage student engagement.
Student Involvement
Have students participate in creating their own sticks. Students can personalize their sticks with stickers, paint, markers, and other decorations.
Use electronic versions of Equity Sticks. Online random name generators such as [[ | this one ]] can be used to randomly choose students. There are also popsicle stick apps for tablets and phones (e.g, [[|Stick Pick]]) that can be downloaded and used in the classroom.


During an introductory lesson about similar triangles, a geometry teacher periodically poses questions to the class in order to check for understanding and chooses Equity Sticks to determine which students to call on. If a student does not know the answer to a question, the teacher pulls a second stick and allows another student to respond. Upon receiving the correct answer, the teacher returns to the initial student and asks him to restate what the second student said to promote active listening and discourage students from "opting out" of answering questions.
To introduce a unit on the Civil War, a history teacher uses Equity Sticks to select heterogeneous (i.e., mixed ability) groups for learning stations. The groups rotate to stations with different artifacts related to the Civil War (e.g., photos, newspaper articles, video clips, etc.). Students discuss the resources with their groups and record key ideas, reflections, and questions on a graphic organizer. The next day, the teacher selects new groups using Equity Sticks and instructs the groups to share their notes from the previous day and formulate a question they would like to explore in greater depth throughout the unit.
A third grade class is giving oral presentations about their book reports. The teacher uses Equity Sticks to determine the order in which the students will present. The teacher is concerned about randomly calling the most shy students to go first. To avoid this situation, the teacher uses a pencil to make a small, light mark on the sticks of the four shyest students. When pulling the sticks the teacher is mindful not to choose a marked stick for the first five presenters. After the activity is over, the teacher erases the marks.
Conflict Resolution
Two students are arguing over who gets to use the last available computer to do research for their science project. The teacher suggests that they use their Equity Sticks to make the decision. The students find their sticks and remove them from the classroom set. One student holds the sticks in their hand, hiding the names, and the other student chooses a stick. The student whose name is on the chosen stick gets to use the computer. The other student waits to use the next available computer.