For many teachers, getting their students to participate in class can be a challenge. Sometimes, students fail to participate because they’re not prepared for a class discussion, while other times, the reason might be due to shyness. However, whatever the cause for lack of participation, there are many ways to encourage students to get more involved in class.
Sometimes, students will assume that if they don’t raise their hand to answer a question, they won’t be called on. It is a destructive mode of thinking, as it can also discourage a student from preparing for class. However, showing your students early on that this is not the case is very important. Students should know that they can be called on at any given time, and that they don’t necessarily have to raise their hand to get called on. A great way to apply this participation ‘rule’ is to write each student’s name on a popsicle stick. When you want to call on a student, simply pick a popsicle stick at random. In knowing that their name could randomly be picked at any time, students are more likely to come to class prepared, and are more likely to get used to the idea of participating in class.
However, some students won’t participate, simply because they’re shy – and if you happen to pick on a very shy student to participate, it could be a stressful situation for that student. There are, of course, various reasons for shyness – some of which include a fear of speaking, a lack of confidence, or perhaps a cultural element. If you suspect that a student is holding back from participation due to lack of confidence, you can gently re-assure them that it’s okay to give a wrong answer. Many times, students are afraid to answer a question in class because they think they might be wrong. If you, as a teacher, re-assure them that mistakes are okay and can be learned from, it could encourage these students to participate.
Another great way to increase student confidence is to allow students to converse about answers before being called on. For instance, try posing a question to the class; then, after about a minute of having students think about the answer on their own, allow them to discuss possible answers in pairs. In being able to converse about their answers before sharing them with the class, they’re likely to answer with more confidence. Once the pairs have conversed for a minute or two, start calling on people to participate.
Of course, when it comes to student participation, it always helps to have interactive tools in the classroom – for instance an interactive whiteboard. In keeping a teaching tool like this in the classroom, students can actively get involved in many ways. Whiteboards like these also often come with interactive whiteboard tools, encouraging even more hands-on activity.
Finally, one of the best ways you can encourage your students to participate is with positive feedback. No matter how a student answers a question – even if it’s incorrect – you can usually first say something positive about their answer. Once you’ve given positive feedback, you can also add constructive criticism if need be. Ultimately, the positive feedback is important because it’s what’s going to encourage students to keep participating.