Card-O-Matic: Increasing Student Participation
Lesson Objective: Ensure student participation with this index card strategy
All Grades / All Subjects / Participation

Thought starters

  1. How does this system hold students accountable in a positive way?
  2. What does Ms. Ritter do to provide more think time for students who need it?
  3. For what other purposes could this strategy be used?
Hi Tammy, I've been meaning to say this to you for two years now. When I saw your video in the summer of 2014, I decided to try the card-o-matic for my 2014-2015 5th grade class. I'm so happy that I did that! That ring of cards stayed on my left pinky finger all day long and became a part of our minute-by-minute whole group instructional routine for all subjects. I even put a few students names in there more than once if I felt it was necessary to keep them more engaged and I threw in a few "teacher choice" cards with stickers all over them too. I made a big deal, or scene, when I flipped to a "teacher choice" card and those 5th graders ate it up! I made sure to shuffle the cards in front of the class each Monday and Wednesday so the students knew it was truly random. I'm going on my 2nd year as an instructional coach. I served three schools last year and am at home at just one school this year. This card-o-matic is still something I make to go into many classrooms when I model for or co-teach with a teacher. Most teachers seems to like it better than random sticks. Thank you for sharing this idea! Much appreciated.
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I really like this idea and how the students are in there twice as well as shuffling them! Great tip!
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I use this concept too! I have a cup of popsicle sticks with student names on them. We talk about their purpose and rules for when I pull their stick out of the cup prior to use. When I want a child to respond to a question or problem, I simply pull out a stick and they have to answer. If I want to group/pair students, I often resort to the cup of sticks to make it easy and random. This makes the students accountable, and cooperatively work in groups/pairs as they are assigned. I do like your idea of putting their names in TWICE so they don't think they are off the hook after one answer :) Thanks for a different take on the idea!
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really liked the concept. But I've modified it. I've taken the card, and cut them into quads (saving $). I then have a Bingo Spinner where I place the cards into, and spin. Every student is on pins and needles because their names can come up. If they answer correctly, they receive a number, for their Bingo board. The winner receives a homework pass, lunch with favorite teacher etc. Once a student has been called, their card goes into the second bingo spinner bin. After a few weeks, I've noticed each of my students are more engaged. Thanks for the original idea! 0 Delete
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Thanks for this tip! I used to use Popsicle sticks but it isn't as easy as the Card-o-matic! I am a world Language teacher and came across another teacher's idea to use playing cards. Because I teach over 200 students this method works better for me. Take two decks of cards and make two sets of identical cards. In my case I chose the 6, 7, 9, Jack and King of all four suits for a total of 20 cards. I taped one card to each desk. My set stays with me. When I call a card, say the the jack of clubs, the student with that card must answer. The good part about this is that I myself will not remember who it is, eliminating the temptation to skip a student because I'm worried they won't have the right answer. If the student I pick is stuck I modify the question until they get it. I anticipate that it will also be fun to ask all Jacks to stand and give their answer. Lots of other possibilities in terms of group work. (E.g. All kings explain to their group why this is the answer) Also students get practice in the numbers and names of the suits. I wrote the number and suit of the card on the playing cards to help students recognize their card easier.
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  • TIPS & TRICKS: Tammy Ritter – “Card-O-Matic” Program Transcript

    Tammy Ritter (Interview):
    The tip I have is called the “Card-O-Matic.”

    TIPS & TRICKS: Tammy Ritter – “Card-O-Matic” Program Transcript

    Tammy Ritter (Interview):
    The tip I have is called the “Card-O-Matic.”
    Ritter (Interview):
    …And what this is, is a way to call on students, and I write everybody’s name
    down on a 3-by-5 card, and I hole-punch it in the corner, and put it on a ring.
    And what this does is it helps me make sure that I’m calling on everyone and not
    just the same students over and over again.
    And also it holds the students accountable for listening to the information, and
    they have to pay attention because their name could get called at any moment.
    And after I’ve called on them once, their name could come up again, so they
    can’t just tune out. So… “Oh, I already had a turn, so now I can just tune out and
    think about something else.” So, being that they’re in there twice, they know that
    their name could come up again shortly.
    And then they start to memorize where they are in the cards, so that’s why I
    shuffle the cards periodically so they never know.
    And it also helps with giving those kids that need extra think time… I can use it to
    forewarn students that they’re coming up next in the cards, so when I get to
    them, it lessens their anxiety, ‘cause they’ve had a chance to think about what
    they’re going to say.
    It’s called the “Card-O-Matic.”

School Details

Odyssey Charter School
725 West Altadena Drive
Altadena CA 91001
Population: 458

Data Provided By:



Tammy Ritter
English Language Arts Math Science Social Studies / 1 2 / Teacher


Teaching Practice

All Grades / All Subjects / Collaboration

Teaching Practice

All Grades / All Subjects / Planning

Teaching Practice

All Grades / All Subjects / Engagement

Lesson Idea

Grades 9-12 / ELA / Tch DIY


Professional Learning


English Language Learners


English Language Arts