Random Choices 2.0 – Using Excel as a randomizer

Bringing an element of randomness into the classroom can really challenge students.

There are many apps that act as random generators, but have you tried using Excel to create a randomizer of your own?

I originally wrote about Random Choices back in November of 2014.

It was one of my earlier posts and at the time technologic was barely two months old. Since then, a few people have asked me about creating a randomizer.

So, I decided to look at randomizers again and update the old file by making it look a little more colorful and by updating the formulas.

A randomizer can be made in PowerPoint, but the sequence of the slides and the order of the words are always pre-determined by the creator.

But a randomizer made in Excel though will choose any word from the list you compiled. The words are pre-determined but not the order in which they appear.

You are also able to scroll through the words in Excel by pressing F9 on your keyboard or by going to the formula ribbon and clicking on calculate now.

Watch this demo video of Random Choices to see how it works.

Video run time is 1 minute and 9 seconds

Download Random Choices 2.0

Click on Random Choices 2.0 to download the template.

*If you press F9 once, the phrases in the boxes change. If you press and hold down F9 Excel will appear to scroll through the phrases. When you release F9, the phrases will stop at a random combination.

Random Choices 2.0 - Screenshot

The template includes a list of words. Some are actions, some are locations and some are time phrases. This template though is not limited to these categories. Go to the Words tab and delete the contents before adding your own words and phrases.

Random Choices - Group Lists.png

*You don’t need to delete the numbers on the left-hand side. The numbers only appear if there are words written in one of the groups.

Ways to use a randomizer in class

Story Prompts

Add names, locations and situations to the words list.

When you press F9 you will get a random combination. Assign a combination to a student or group and ask them to write a short story based on the prompts.

Role-play Situations

Add names, locations and situations to the words list.

When you press F9 you will get a random combination. Instead of writing a short story, ask groups of students to create a role-play based around the situation.

Use Random Choices to assign a random scenario to each group.

Whisper Chains

This activity is useful for practicing grammar structures.

Add subject, conjugated verb and object to the words list.

Divide the students into 2 or 4 groups. Each group forms a line with student at the front (closest to the board) holding a piece of chalk or a marker.

Show a random combination of words to the students at the back of the lines. They think of a sentence and whisper it to the person in front of them, who in turn whispers it to the person in front of them until it reaches the person at the front of the line.

The person at the front of the line then runs to the board and writes down the sentence. The first group with a grammatically correct sentence wins a point.


Add verbs, nouns and adverbs to the words list.

Divide the students into groups of 4-5 students. Ask one student from each group to look at the random word combination. The students then return to their groups and act out the situation with gestures.

The group that guesses the situation first wins a point.

Random Choices on your Device

Random Choices - SmartphonesCan you view the template on your smartphone or tablet?

Yes, but unless you already have Excel installed on your mobile device, you will need to download the Excel app or another spreadsheet viewer, so that you can view the Random Choices template on your smartphone or tablet.

There is no F9 button on your tablet or smartphone, so how do you change the combination of words?

Go to the formulas menu and scroll down to the bottom. Click on calculate and the words inside the circles will change.

Using the template on a mobile device is useful for activities where you want to show the combination of random words to a particular student or a group of students.

Random Choices and PowerPoint

If you want to use this activity in a training session or classroom and you are already running PowerPoint, do you need to close PowerPoint to open the randomizer?

The simple answer is no. Just link your files together.

This tutorial video will show you how to create a button in PowerPoint to open another program.

Video run time is 2 minutes and 6 seconds

How to link to another file on your computer

Create a button by inserting a rounded rectangle.

Change the color and adjust the size.

Insert your text inside the button.

Change the font and adjust the text size. Add any additional 3D effects if desired.

Go to the insert ribbon and click on action.

Click on hyperlink to and select other file from the drop down list.

Select your file and click OK. Click OK again.

Start your presentation and click on the button you created.

You will see a security message asking if you trust the file.

If you click Yes, the file will open. If you click No, you will return to the presentation. Only click Yes if you trust the file. 

When you have finished viewing your file, close it and you will return back to the presentation.

Please leave a comment if you have any ideas or suggestions about using randomizer in your class.

Alternatively, you can send me a message by visiting the contact page, leaving me a message on my Facebook page or by following me on Twitter.

Thanks for reading and take care!

You may also like to read:

PowerPoint Dice - Featured Image

PowerPoint Dice uses a technique that allows you to create your own custom dice and select random choices in PowerPoint without linking to an external Excel file.

Simply create your own videos that scroll through your choices.

The videos and images are for educational purposes only.

The Randomizer was created in Microsoft® Excel® 2016

The tutorial videos were created in Microsoft® PowerPoint® 2016

The redesign of the template was inspired by a template created by Ellen Simes.

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