Random Choices

Random Choices!

One of my favourite teaching books is Drama and Improvisation by Ken Wilson.

There is an activity from this book called ‘Actions and Locations,’ which you can find on page 37. I have enjoyed using this activity in my lessons because of the laughter and fun it brings.

The general idea is that a student is given two prompts:

An Action – for example ‘shopping’ A Location – for example ‘at the zoo’ A dialogue can then be constructed using a silly scenario. The sillier, the better, as it will get the students laughing. I’ve previously done this activity using scrap paper and index cards. This has worked out great for large classes, okay for smaller classes, but more difficult for one-to-one lessons.

How can we make it in Excel?

By entering some words and phrases into an Excel sheet and using the RANDBETWEEN function and the VLOOKUP function, we can recreate this activity.

Click on Random Choices to download the Excel file, or visit the downloads page.

When you open the file you will see two boxes called ‘Action’ and ‘Location’ and another called ‘Time.’ These three columns each have 25 answers. This provides us with plenty of variety. Random Choices

If you press F9 once, the phrases in the boxes change. If you press and hold down F9 phrases scroll through the boxes like a slot machine. When you release F9 the phrases will stop at a completely random combination.

Random Choices-Words   All the words and phrases used are kept on the sheet called ‘words.’ The phrases are selected by the random numbers generated at the top of the page.

Some tips for using it.

It is OK if you only want to use two columns. Empty cells appear blank on the Improvisation Card. If one column only has four answers, copy them until all 25 cells of the column are full. This will reduce the chances of blank cells appearing. When using an Excel in class, hide the ribbon for a simpler display. The ribbon options can be found in the top right corner of the screen next to the close button, and the formula bar and rulers can be hidden by deselecting them on the view tab. Keep it simple.  So, that’s it. Now, let me answer a few questions you may have.

I have a random number generator on my phone, so why use this in Excel?

Well, Random Choices is not limited to numbers, names, or the actions and locations activity. It can be used for a variety of different ways.

How can I change Random Choices?

On the sheet called ‘Words,’ change the titles on the table to different categories. They will automatically update on the other sheet.

Some ideas for using Random Choices:

    • It is possible to randomly group people together with ‘Random Choices’ but there is a chance of duplicate names. If this happens just press F9 again, or divide the names between the different columns.
    • Useful if you want students to present a topic
    • It can be used as a hot seat game and students have to guess what information is on the screen.
    • Students try and make sentences with the different parts of speech
    • This is also good for self-study and vocabulary review
    • Students use random prompts to practice specific structures
    • Encourage creative writing by adding ideas for stories and generating random plots.
    • Write prompts for speaking tests.
    • Write example questions
    • Write length of time to speak for
If you have any ideas about how to use Random Choices. Leave a comment.
Take Care!

NOTE: Random Choices was inspired by this article. The original article on ‘how-to geek’ uses simple tables, but I wanted to produce a clearer display on a separate sheet, which more closely resembled index card games. I have also added the SUBSTITUTE formula, so any empty cells will appear as a blank rather than a 0. For further information about the SUBSTITUTE formula take a look at the tutorial video and the links on my Word Bank post. If you are learning Excel, it’s definitely worth checking out howtogeek.com and looking at their examples.

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