Classroom Management: Name Sticks

Name sticks are a useful, yet effective, classroom management tool. They're also extremely versatile.

Before I really get started here, I want to point out that name sticks are nothing new. Teachers have used them for years. I think that's a testament to how useful they can be.

I recently shared my name sticks on Instagram where I also shared how I use them, and a few friends over there shared how they use them. That's what this post is all about, all the ways you can use name sticks in your classroom.

What is a name stick?
Name sticks are exactly what the name implies, sticks with (student) names written on them. Most often, you'll see teachers using craft sticks like the ones shown below. In my opinion, "jumbo" size is the way to go. That size is just easier when you're trying to write names.

You can use them straight out the package. Grab a stick, write a name (I like to use Sharpie), repeat. Put all of your sticks into a little pail/can.

Sometimes, you might see teachers get kind of crafty with their sticks. I tend to get crafty. This is not necessary. Some teachers like to craft and enjoy making things for their classroom.

Some years, I paint my sticks. And, every year, I glue a bow on them. I like bows. Not sorry.

I'm often asked where I get my bows. I make them! I use 3/8" wide ribbon, tie a bunch of mini bows, and then hot glue them to the top of the sticks.

When I don't feel like painting the sticks, I just add the bow.

The stick shown above has a unique shape. They look like mini paint stirrers. I found this particular stick style at Hobby Lobby, alongside the "regular" shaped craft stick.

The colors of the bows (or sticks, when I paint them) bears no meaning to me. I simply choose colors that match my classroom because that makes me happy. I grab and label the sticks at random. But, if you choose to decorate your sticks, the colors could mean something if you wanted them to.

How can I use them?
There are so many ways you can use name sticks. Let's take a look at all the ways you can use name sticks in the classroom.

Calling on Students
This is probably the most common way teachers use name sticks: calling on students at random. When you notice that the same 3-4 kids are raising their hands for every single question, pull a name stick. This reminds students to really pay attention.

You can even rely on the name sticks. That is, instead of asking for volunteers to answer questions, share ideas, etc, you simply pull name sticks one a time. Again, this will remind students to stay focused, and you can be sure not to call on the same student more than once.

Note: Some people prefer to write numbers on their sticks so they can reuse the same set of sticks every year. If this idea works for you, that's awesome! I personally prefer writing student names because I don't want I call out numbers (too impersonal). Also, I like to know whose stick I'm pulling because my brain can't match names to numbers that quickly on the spot. So, writing names is probably a time saver for me. Hehe.

Grouping Students
Need to make groups quickly? Then, get that little pail of name sticks because you'll be able to group your 27 students in no time at all.  Decide the size of each group. Grab that many sticks and BOOM, you have a group. Repeat until all of your students are grouped.

Pairing Students
I know, I know, pairing up students isn't all that different than grouping students. But, the sticks will still be a super quick way to quickly pair up students.

Tip: A sweet friend on Instagram, Marna, shared a great tip for what to do when you have an odd number of students. She lets that person choose which group they join, I absolutely love this idea.

Mystery Walker
When my kids start getting a little too comfortable in the hallways, I choose one or two mystery walkers. I simply pull a stick, or two, before we leave the room. I do not announce whose names were pulled. I keep an eye on those students and if they do a stellar job in the hallway, I let them know when we get to wherever it is we are going and I give them a Mystery Walker reward tag. Learn more about reward tags here.

On the Spot Helper
If you have a quick task that you'd like a student to do, pull a stick! You could have that student help you with a specific task like passing out papers or materials, erasing the board, helping you with part of a lesson, and so on. You could also have them deliver things like notes to other teachers/office, retrieve a book from the library for you, or take the lunch cards to the lunchroom.

Seating Arrangements
Another sweet Instagram friend, Candace, shared that she uses her name sticks for seating arrangements. The students draw a stick (which she numbers) and then they sit at the desk with that number. Of course she reserves the right to move kids as needed once they choose their seats, but she tries to give them the benefit of the doubt. Love that!

Sub Helper
Substitutes are often overwhelmed when they guest teach in your classroom. They usually have the goal of following your plans, adhering to schedules, and figuring out procedures which can make learning names quickly more challenging. Sharing the name sticks with your sub means they can use them to call on students, choose helpers, and so on without saying, "Yes, you, with the red shirt."

As a Library Marker
Another fellow teacher on Instagram explained that she's used name sticks as library markers. When students remove a book from the shelf, they place their name stick in that space so they remember where their book goes when it's time to put it away. I've seen this done with paint sticks as well. It's a great way to teach kids to be responsible with shared classroom materials.

Taking Attendance
Once upon a time, my students would walk through the door, take their stick and place it in on one side of a pocket chart to indicate whether they brought their lunch from home, or if they were getting school lunch that day.  I placed the pocket chart and stick at the doorway so students remembered to do this as they walked in each morning. I loved this system. I could quickly see who was absent and who needed their lunch card that day. Sadly, this set up just didn't work with our pod situation at school. Since we entered the school all at once from the playground, my class was always backing things up out into the hallway and I didn't have any other place to put this chart. So, I stopped using the sticks in this manner. However, many people on Instagram reported that one of the things they use the sticks for is taking attendance and I still think it's a fabulous use of name sticks.

I'm sure there are other useful ways to use name sticks. If you have one that wasn't mentioned here, please share it in the comments below. :)


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