02/13/2014 12:55 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Red Solo Cup, I Lift You Up

When I was a doctoral student at the University of Houston, I took a class from Dr. Jerome Freiberg. At the beginning of the first class, there were markers and tongue depressors on the tables. He asked each of us to write our names on the sticks and then put them in a large plastic cup that he passed around in order to equally distribute questions.

Toward the end of that first class, he started randomly pulling the sticks, calling the names one at a time, and asking us to share one thing we had learned. He pulled sticks quickly, called the names loudly, and the doctoral students responded promptly and briefly. It only took a few moments, but in the blink of an eye, he had masterfully reviewed everything that had been taught in that first class period. I was impressed... simple, yet so meaningful.

The rules for Dr. Freiberg's Go-Around Cup based on his research went something like this:

• Think of more than one idea to share because there will be no repeated comments.

• It is okay to say "I Pass" and no questions will be asked and the professor will quickly move on to another stick. The student who passed could re-enter and respond to the question later.

• The used sticks might be placed back into a smaller cup that was inside the larger cup, so names could be called twice. (This strategy made me sit up, pay attention, listen and be prepared to participate again if called on the second time.)

When I became a college professor, the first teaching supplies I purchased were a red Solo cup, wooden tongue depressors and markers. Today, I am using this same technique in my college classes in our School of Education that Dr. Freiberg started earlier in K-12 schools.

I always ask on the first test (as an essay response) for students to explain how the sticks serve as a teaching strategy and as a classroom management strategy. Most of my students "get it" and many say it is their favorite strategy -- one they plan to use when they become teachers with their own classrooms filled with children to inspire.

In 2001, as I left Lamar University headed for the University of Mobile, my students actually found a way to bronze a red Solo cup and the sticks, then wrote small statements of wisdom on each one for me to take with me. This cup sits in my office to remind me of a well-loved tradition that is being handed down to the next generation of teachers... simple, yet so meaningful.

For details on Dr. Freiberg's Consistency Management & Cooperative Discipline Go-around Cup, and other ideas visit his website.