I discovered The Hat a few years ago, and now I'd like to share this amazing free tool with you. Let me start with a quick overview of how to get started, and I'll finish by sharing a few hat tricks - classroom-tested ideas for using it with your students!
The Hat is a tool for randomly choosing students, partners, or teams in the classroom. You don’t have to have an interactive whiteboard to use it, but a projector is nice. If you have a PC, you can download and install this small "exe" file from the Teaching Resources Interactive Whiteboard Page. I suggest placing a link to the program on your desktop so you can find it easily when you need it. Unfortunately, there’s not a version for Mac users.
Getting Started with the Hat
When you first open The Hat program file, it won’t look exactly like this picture. The Hat has several modes of operation, and it opens in the user mode where you can add names and set up your user preferences. To add student names, click the + sign and add the names one at a time. Then click "Done." After you add the names, your list will be saved and you can click the hat icon to draw individual names or partners. Play with the program a bit, and explore the other options in the user mode such as font size, animation speed, etc.
What can you do with the Hat?
After you've entered your students' names and tested out the program, read on for some suggestions about how to use the Hat in your classroom.
- Pick Individuals - Click on the Hat icon at the top to start selecting students randomly. Your students will love the drum roll and dramatic visual effects that accompany this step! (If you aren't so fond of the sound effects, you can disable sound in the user mode.) You can even print the list when you finish.
- Pick Partners - Click on File and then Pick Pairs of Names. Amazing! My students never argue with who the Hat picks for a partner. (Note: Only use the Hat to pick partners when it doesn't matter who is paired with whom. However, if students will be working on content-specific assignments like math, reading, science, or social studies, assign partners yoursefl to be sure the students are compatible and working at a similar level.)
- Save Class Lists - If you have more than one class, you can save the list of names as a text file by clicking File -> Save Text to File. Save each class list under a different name and you can easily import them at the start of class. Just be sure to remember where you save each list.
- Pick Teams - The Hat can even pick teams to respond in addition to individuals. Instead of entering individual names, enter team names or numbers. For example, enter Team 1 or The Whiz Kids. Then save that list to a file. When you want to pick teams to present a report or tell the class an idea, open the Team File.
- Create Semi-Random Teams - If you want to allow your students to have some choice in who is on their team, try this strategy. Have all your students clear their desktops and stand around the back of the room. Click on the Hat to start picking names. When their name is called, students may sit anywhere in the room, but they may not move after they are seated. Also, they may not save seats or behave in an unwelcoming way towards any student who wants to sit with them.