How Teachers Can Improve Student Participation in Class

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How Teachers Can Improve Student Participation in Class

Teachers want students to participate in-class activities. Student engagement improves learning while making classroom management easier.

When students participate in class activities they affirm that they are involved in the learning process. Yet some sleep, daydream, doodle, or just sit silently. Teachers can get terribly frustrated and use a variety of wrong approaches to garner attention — including useless threats and lower grades. Are you interested in what I write my paper about? Read on.

Improved Student Participation Starts with the Physical Classroom Environment

The classroom environment is job 1 — Its lighting, temperature, outside noise, classroom design, etc. Sometimes there is little that can be done, but teachers should not back away from being the “squeaky wheel” for their students. Motivation to participate is enhanced by the classroom.

Teachers can, and should, attend to classroom design. Students can ignore some factors beyond teacher control if they feel encouraged by a pleasant learning environment. Pay particular attention to the seating and avoid the all-too-common straight-row front-to-back pattern. A “U”-shape or semicircle allows for better monitoring and eye contact and positions students so that they face each other.

Individual Differences Among Students are Important in Teaching

No single plan to enhance participation will produce the same results in all students. Expect different reactions to different procedures and don’t criticize students who may prefer a different approach. The main virtue for all successful teachers is patience, and keeping a positive attitude about the ultimate success of one’s overall plan is essential.

Differentiating instruction as defined by Carol Ann Thompson offers guidelines for teachers who are not accustomed to meeting individual needs. Teachers would do well to familiarize themselves with her fundamental concepts.

An essential issue in increasing participation is the understanding of students as individuals. A note card can be filled out by each student on the first day of class for necessary demographics and some personal information about student interests, likes and dislikes, hobbies, etc.

The note cards will also reveal facts about students’ abilities to write, following instructions, etc. All of the information is important in individual instruction. Review the note cards and make a few notes before instruction begins.

Engage all Students as Soon as Possible

Using the bits of knowledge from notes and other resources (e.g., standardized tests) teachers can dispel the concerns of some students by having them help in simple tasks on the first days of school. These might involve helping set up parts of the classroom or more individualized tasks whatever they might be.

Depending on the school schedule, teachers will want to engage the class in a discussion of expectations, including rules. Ask for suggestions from students trying to incorporate gleaned information from note cards. Attempt to include quiet students, but don’t push.

Teachers Should Know Students Names and Students Should Know Each Other

Name cards on desks or tables will help teachers and students know names. Use the cards for as long as it takes to learn names. Have student names written on small sheets of paper and place them in a container. Several times each day ask students to hide their name cards. The teacher should draw five names, read them, and try to point out each of the five students. All names should be known in a few days in a large class. This activity will help other students learn names with the teacher.

Students need to Speak as soon as Possible

Some students talk too much, but some speak only when absolutely necessary. The longer students go without participating, the harder it will be for them to become involved in class activities later. There is no need to call attention to a student’s quiet demeanor.

Teachers simply greet students as they enter the room and make eye contact — this should be a permanent practice. At appropriate times, quiet students can be asked questions with simple, short answers to get accustomed to speaking. During class discussions, teachers may choose to stand or sit near quiet students to encourage them to speak without having to project across the room.

Use small groups to encourage non-participants to accomplish specific duties within the group — recording ideas, writing a summary, etc. Small groups also help diminish problems created by the excessive talkers. Typically, every class has a few students who do most of the speaking. Putting them in groups gives others a chance to participate within their particular group.

Participation is not for Grading Students

Participation and much of what is generated by it is formative. That is, it is part of the learning process. The teacher might want to make notes about participation to share with parents and discuss with individual students in private conferences, but grading is not a good idea. Doing so places the silent student in jeopardy immediately.

If they are performing well on summative assessments grading participation may lower their grade and create negative feelings about fairness and the student may withdraw. Participation should be regarded as a tool that improves learning, not a product of learning. Proof of learning — tests and quizzes — are for grades as reported by Write My Paper for Me service.

Resources for Improving Student Participation

Persida and William Himmele have assembled numerous tips for improving student participation in a 2011 book “Total Participation Techniques.” This book offers specific tips and techniques.

Robert Marzano and Debra Pickering have contributed “The Highly Engaged Classroom.” Robert Marzano is a noted educator whose writings offer research-based solutions to problems.

The best Internet resources are to be found by using — in quotation marks — “student participation in the classroom.” Such a search should locate scholarly articles about student engagement.

Student engagement begins with the student environment. Many students must feel welcome and safe in class before becoming involved. Teachers must make an effort to know their students and encourage students to know each other. Participation need not be graded, as it grades itself due to increased student engagement. Good books are available that take varied approaches to increase participation.

Copyright Rebecca Chapman. Contact me to obtain permission for copywriting.