The Tupperware of Terror

I have children in my class who never put their hand up to volunteer information.  Who doesn’t?  Some children will always let the “smarter” children answer.  Some just can’t be bothered with the exertion of lifting their arm and keeping it raised for an indeterminate amount of time dictated by the response time of the man at the front.

A few months ago, I read on Twitter about Dominic McGladdery‘s ‘Mug of Misery.’  For those who are wondering what it is, he’s written a great blog post about it.  Basically, it’s a pot of lolly sticks with a child’s name on each stick.  Instead of the children putting their hands up, the teacher can choose names at random.

I had already been using lolly sticks in my classroom to randomly decide who Gerald The Moose would go home with each weekend when I decided to adapt Dominic’s idea for using the sticks on a daily basis. I told them about how Dominic calls his a ‘Mug of Misery’  but as I wasn’t using a mug, I altered the name slightly and called mine the ‘Tupperware of Terror!’  When I utter these three words, there is normally someone who lets out a little scream or someone who hums some sort of spooky music.  If you’re wondering what my Tupperware of Terror looks like, here it is:

Now I’m not into negativity in the classroom, and there’s no getting away from it, the name ‘Tupperware of Terror’ does have a certain negative vibe.  However, the children in my class love it when I use it and often ask to use it instead of putting their hands-up.  I don’t use it all the time – I do still use the hands-up technique, but I have found that when I use the Tupperware of Terror, the children are much more engaged as they are forced to have an answer ready.  Having used this technique for a few months now, it has firmly become part of our day-to-day learning.

In an older blog post, Dominic had also mentioned the Random Name Selector that can be downloaded from this link.  I’ve found this great for selecting mixed-ability groups to place the children in.

5 Replies to “The Tupperware of Terror”

  1. Hi. I use these all the time too, but also allow children who want to answer at the end of a no hands up session/question to put their hands up and have opportunity to answer as well. Otherwise I found children with things to say got frustrated.
    Another tip – I write the names on both sides of the lolly sticks and put a dot on one end. That way I put the sticks in the other way up (with dot) when I’ve pulled a name out. Children think their name is always going to come out which keeps them on their toes, but its a little less random than that!

  2. Great – my whole school uses this as we found the same thing – children are much more motivated to listen when they know there’s a chance they will personally be asked a question! Plus – no tired arms ;0)

  3. Dominic McGladdery says: Reply

    Thanks for the mention, Simon. It’s nice to see that it isn’t just my mother who reads my blog.
    It’s great to see so many people using their own version of a very simple idea.
    I’ve been contacted by a lot of teachers recently who say, “We do that at our school. It works really well” and by others who say, “What a great idea. Why isn’t everyone doing it?”
    I think that it works best for teachers like you and me because we have made it into a fun activity. The screams and spooky humming show that the teacher/pupil relationships in your classroom are fantastic. Turning negativity into a positivity is an amazing thing for any educator. The students really like it, too. One student asked me recently if I had eaten all the lollies!
    A question for Ms Wise and Harriet: Do you have a name for your containers? A goblet of gloom, perhaps? Or a teacup of terror? A vase of vicissitude? A jug of something unpleasant beginning with “J”?
    In my experience, if you can make some seem like fun, you will usually get a positive response, even if it isn’t fun at all.

  4. […] As this is an idea that is often used with younger children, I wanted to show some progression in the children’s work with Gerald.  I was very concious that they should be writing differently in Year 5 from what they were producing in Year 2 when they last had a teddy like this.  For this reason, I decided that the blog would be written by Gerald and would be from his point of view, meaning that the children were developing their skills of writing in the first person using empathy, but they would also be writing about themselves in the third person.  To demonstrate how this would work, I wrote two example blog posts (Visiting Northern Ireland and An Adventure To Northumbria University).  Soon after, Gerald started going home with the children each weekend and over the holidays, with his host being decided by The Tupperware of Terror. […]

  5. I have a similar thing in my year 5 class. We call it lolly lotto, the children start a drumroll when they see me reach for the cup. My lolly sticks are colour coordinated to the children’s ability so I can still differentiate but it’s very subtle. I ask the question and I can decide which group the question is going to, the children know what colour their own stick is but have yet to realise that they’re in groups as they don’t perfectly mat h their table groups.

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