Sampling and building relationships

Have you ever seen bullmastiffs taking a random sample? What about a pug?  Well… you’re in for a treat!

The backstory

I introduce sampling to my Year 12 students with a lesson progression adapted from Lindsay Smith (here).  The day before this lesson, a brilliant homework task was assigned – students had to find a silly dog picture to add to our wall – the story behind the wall is a completely different post that I’ll try to get written one day!


The next day we introduce sampling… the short version goes something like this:

  • Hand out class rolls to pairs of students
  • Ask them to come up with five different ways of selecting five students
  • Then share back the different ways they come up with – generally the basic methods are covered such as simple random sampling, stratified sampling (one from each group of desks or x boys and y girls (are girls are more likely to do homework?… hmmm…. you can see where this would lead to nice class discussion), convenience sampling, self-selected sampling 
  • I then go formally through the different sampling methods, and we take a sample using each method from the class, with replacement obviously.
  • If a student is selected and they have done their homework they get a lolly…. if they get selected and they haven’t done their homework then there is a “punishment” as deemed fit by the class.

The “punishment” is an opportunity to have some fun with the class, with good humour – we have a range of options for them to choose from that the class decides before we start.  This year we included star jumps, press ups, and drawing a horse (more on that in the promised later post).  Much laughter ensured this year as Louis, who of course hadn’t done his homework, was picked four out of the five times! He choose to draw each time, along with quite a few others, and my whiteboard ended up covered in a variety of creatures.  Here’s two that I managed to keep for a while amongst the rest of my busy back whiteboard

dog & horse

The new exciting part…

The one sampling method that was fresh for me this year, that my students had never come up with before, was to get my dogs to select a sample – I think maybe I’ve shared too much about them with my classes!  Always up for a challenge, and an excuse to do silly things with my dogs, I roped in the help of my husband that evening and here’s the results:

Cornelius sampling

daisy sample
Daisy sampling


Tess sampling part 1


Tess sampling part 2

As you can see… the student names were spread out in a circle in my garage, and what you might not quite be able to see, is that there is a small dog treat on every piece.  The dogs were spun to get a little dizzy (not harmed in anyway!) to aim for a “random” start point.

Were the dogs random?  I don’t know about the big dogs – yes, the start point was random, but they just went into hoover-mode from there so it depended on whether the names were also randomly spread in the circle (I have to admit, I don’t think they were). But… I’ve found a skill that a blind, deaf, losing-her-sense-of-smell, old-lady pug has!  I think Tess was quite random!  It took her ages to find each piece and make her selection – the clips above are just a small portion of the 2 minutes it took her to choose five students.

Why this was so cool? – other than having dogs sample of course – it gave me an opportunity to continue to reinforce the positive relationship I have with my class: they enjoyed seeing my dogs, I enjoyed being able to share a little of my dogs with them and involving them in class – we often, as teachers, seem to work really hard to remember to check in with students after their big sports event, competition, work experience, camp, music, new job, new sibling, new dog…. and its nice having this interest and care reciprocated.

The reward for being selected by Cornelius, Daisy or Tess…. a picture of them to keep!  Here’s Mya’s book – who was lucky enough to be selected by both Daisy and Tess:



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