School kids raising hand in classroomHow many times in the day do you find yourself asking questions of your students, and then staring out into a room of disinterested faces? Or how about facing a group of students trying not to make eye contact with you because they don’t want you to call on them? There are many reasons why students may be hesitant to speak up in class, ranging from not knowing the answer to the question, having a fear of being wrong or of being the center of attention. Greater classroom participation by all students helps produce a better class dynamic, greater confidence among students, and helps students solidify their comprehension of ideas. The techniques below can help you encourage students to overcome their participation hesitations so that everyone can get the most out of classroom discussion.

5 Ideas to Encourage More Classroom Participation

  1. Remember, there are no wrong answers! Reinforce during every class, and in every discussion, that your classroom is a safe space in which no one will be judged. Affirm these rules by keeping the tone positive and supportive. Whether a student gives an incorrect answer or shares a different opinion, respond positively to their ideas, and encourage your students to do the same.
  2. Start with an icebreaker. Start your group discussion with an opinion question instead of something fact based. An error-proof prompt will help get students to become comfortable being in a conversational mode.
  3. Give students time to organize their thoughts. Rather than opening up a discussion with a verbal prompt, ask your students to take some notes or write down their response. During this time, walk around the room and read what the students are writing. Point out great answers from your quieter students and encourage them to share with the class. A little preemptive encouragement will give students who lack confidence a boost to speak up.
  4. Ask students to comment on one another’s responses. You may feel compelled to respond to every student’s remarks. Instead give their peers a chance to comment. You may have some students who are more comfortable agreeing with someone’s perspective than being the first person to put their thoughts and ideas out to the group.
  5. Challenge students to meet participation goals. You likely have students who always want to speak in class and those who never want to share. At the start of a new marking period, challenge each student to create a personal, measurable goal. For some, it could be speaking up less frequently, for others, more regularly. For still others, the goal could be to speak up only when called on more consistently. Encourage students to track their progress and award prizes for the students who meet their goals. By gamifying participation, and allowing students to individualize their experience, you can help balance your classroom dynamic.

The confidence and public speaking abilities that students learn at a young age are critical foundational skills that they will need to build upon throughout their lives. Your classroom should be a judgment-free place where students are comfortable sharing their ideas and being creative. By encouraging more students to speak freely, your entire class will benefit from a greater diversity of perspectives and opinions, setting everyone on a positive course for the year.

It’s Your Turn!

Do you have any tips or tricks to encourage participation in your classroom? Please share your ideas with our community of teachers in the comment section below. Your input is important. Thank you!

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