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5 Must-Do Hacks to Your Popsicle Stick Classroom Management System

In the past, I have used wooden, colored popsicle sticks to fairly select students (to call on, to line up, etc), and they work well. However, one year I couldn’t find them and didn’t want to spend a full day driving from store to store (It was summertime, and I had relaxing to do!), so I bought a set of foam popsicle sticks out of desperation, hoping they’d work for at least a little while. Well, low-and-behold, I like them even better than wood popsicle sticks for a couple reasons:

  • They don’t bleed when you write student names on them. The wooden sticks bled quite a bit when writing on them with a sharpie, often to the point that it was hard to decipher the letters in a student’s name. As I pull the sticks, I like to hold them up and show the names to the class to give them more exposure both to print and to reading familiar words. In my experience with the foam sticks, the sharpie doesn’t really bleed at all and is so much easier to read, which I love!
  • They are quieter, with no clanking on each other or on tables or counters. (This never bothered me as a problem with the wooden ones, but once you have ones that don’t do this, there are moments that you realize how nice it is…)

Whether you are using wooden popsicle sticks or my new favorite foam popsicle sticks, here are some ideas for ways to use them, maximizing a system you likely already use and streamlining some of your classroom management.

1If you have a student or two who you may want to be able to pick at will (such as a student who struggles academically and you want to be able to pick their stick when the question is one appropriate for their level), I recommend putting a little mark on both ends of the student’s stick. You can then covertly choose or avoid that stick without having to, not so subtly, rifle through all the sticks.

2Write student names on both sides. This helps with appearing to pick student names “fairly” while actually having some control. You know those times when there’s one student in class having a rough day who doesn’t really deserve to be the first to line up or the one to get to do the special job — and of course it’s their stick that you randomly pull? Ugh! If student names are on both sides, you are more likely to be able to covertly see that you are not picking their name. 😉 

3To make it easy to keep all the sticks in a jar, but to know which ones you have already picked recently, mark one end of each popsicle stick with a sharpie. Start with all the sticks having the sharpie-colored end down (or up if that’s your preference) and as you pick sticks, put them back with the opposite end down. At a glance, you’ll be able to see which ones have and haven’t been picked, without having a pile of sticks sitting next to the jar all the time. (Anyone else’s students play with those sticks sitting by the jar all. the. time?!?) This prevents that temptation.  🙂

4Have two (or more) sets of popsicle sticks. Each year for several years, I made myself one set of popsicle sticks. But, I constantly found myself wanting to use them and not being near them. And we all know what happens to your nice, attentive class when you run across the room for even a second!! #NotWorthIt …  So I now make two sets of sticks (each set in a different color, so if a stick gets loose I know which set it goes with) and keep one in a cup at our carpet area and one in a jar by the door to our classroom. It’s one of those little things that makes life easier.

5Play this exciting game at the beginning of the school year (or anytime in the year!) as a way to get to know each other and learn names along with practicing letters, sounds and phonics! My students beg for it!

What awesome ways do you use your popsicle sticks? Any tricks you’ve come up with? Please let me know! And if you enjoyed these tips, I’d be honored if you’d share on social media.

Warmly,

I'm Allison Blair, and I’m so honored you are here. I am a teacher at heart who can never pass up an opportunity to share information with someone. Luckily, that teaching compulsion comes in handy — I am a first-grade teacher of over 15 years, a teaching/parenting blogger and (most importantly!) a mom of two little ones. I have especially strong passions for: • early literacy learning and classroom and home libraries • creating a love of learning and reading in children • behavior management and child development • building classroom communities and family closeness • using purposeful teacher and parent word choice with children You've already got the love. Now here's the background knowledge you need to support your child's academic and emotional growth and create a strong family connection. I'm here to ease your mind and help you confidently raise your children in the way you've always wished you could. Welcome!

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