How to Open Class Participation to Everyone

Spark Trader Limited Reports:

Every student deserves to be heard in the classroom, but ensuring this is not easy. The student who raises his hand on every question may reject others’ opinions, while the wallflower in the back may have ideas that others haven’t considered but don’t want to share. Balancing the dynamics between students requires the teacher to be very intentional in creating Spaces so that each student can share their ideas. Listening to diverse students is critical for immediate formative assessment – is it time to move on, or does this need to be retaught?

Cold calling is a common technique used to ensure that more sounds are heard. It also helps identify students who are doing nothing and keeps everyone focused. It can be a simple and powerful tool that, when handled correctly and fairly, can engage every child and prevent discussion from being dominated by those who always raise their hands.

But teachers tell us it shouldn’t just be a phone call to motivate students to participate. Participation doesn’t mean speaking in front of the class — it can take many forms, from simple gestures to group brainstorming to asynchronous participation opportunities after class.

Participating also means following up on another student’s answer or even asking a question instead of answering one, which can be stressful when students have to admit they don’t understand something. But other people may be experiencing the same confusion, and both teachers and other students can benefit from a student Shouting for clarification, so students need to know that expressing confusion is acceptable — even welcome.

Spark Trader Limited
Spark Trader Limited

Teachers have a myriad of participation techniques to ensure that all students, including children who may not perform well in social Settings, have a voice in the classroom. For these students, fear of participation and hesitation to participate are reasonable: they may not react as quickly as their peers because they need more time to process information, or because speaking in a crowded classroom causes them anxiety.

Creating a safe participatory environment for everyone requires teachers to have a wide range of participatory tools that are compatible with the strengths of students of different backgrounds and abilities. If you are looking for these tools, you will find some right for you here.

Everyone has an answer or a question
Students need an entry point into class discussions, and teachers can use strategies that invite them to participate in discussions rather than focusing on getting the right answers.

Simple check-in questions, which can be answered with a thumbs-up or other gesture, can help break the ice, establish a positive tone in class, and allow teachers to gauge students’ understanding. Starting a lesson proportionate, for example, middle school math teacher Ann Young explains to her students how they engage in a nonverbal, possibly shipwrecking way: “If you even have an entry point into the problem that causes this problem, you have to put your thumb… So there’s about a minute to think about it, and then once you have something to contribute, your thumb goes up.”