Monday, December 13, 2010

Getting Kids to Participate

In How do you attain participation?  from Learn Me Good by Mister Teacher, he asks,

participation“Instead, my question is, How do you attain participation in class? We always seem to have those kids that come in day after day with nothing better to do than try to impersonate a brick. Sometimes these are kids who do fantastic on tests, but they never talk in class. Sometimes they are kids who fail horribly in class and never raise their hands in class. Sometimes it's the vast majority of the class!...So any other strategies out there? How do you get participation from your ‘bricks?’”

This reminded me of all those students I taught who would never participate. I had to start of thinking about why they don’t participate and address those issues first. I think by knowing the reasons, I could give alternatives. At first it looks like the students are being oppositional and refuse to cooperative. But then I realized that many of them were just afraid. They were afraid of failure and of being laughed at by other students.

I started thinking about my own reason for wanting them to participate. My objective was to find out if they understood the material or remembered the information. Was it that important that they answered out loud in front of the class?

All of my students had a small square block that was green on one side and red on the other. They used these when they needed help. I decided to use this as a response tool so I started to ask true/false questions about the material. When I counted to 3, everyone had to turn their blocks to the answer (green for true and red for false). This really increases student participation!

Another strategy I used was having them work in teams of 2 to study material. After giving them time to study, I had a small competition between teams. More students felt comfortable answering because they weren’t alone anymore. I know I feel braver when I have someone backing me up.

I also tried to figure out alternative ways to assess my student’s knowledge. Sometimes I offered a choice of activities and let the students chose the one that they were most comfortable with. This really showed me that my students knew more than I expected. If the students were creating something new with the skills they learned, I didn’t have to worry about cheating or behavior problems. Most of the students were engaged and excited about this lesson.

If I had a student who still refused to participate, I would meet with that student individually and try to find out the problem. I would even offer to let the students come up with their own suggestions if it would meet my objective. By doing this, the students really had no excuse why they wouldn’t participate.

Once I have exhausted all options, it is time to call the parent. Usually at this point, there is more to the student’s lack of motivation than anything I can control.

What do you do to increase participation in your class?

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'Mapeado del Itinerario 1 (Zonas Verdes)' by: LaFundició

1 comment:

Perfecting Parenthood said...

Is it a motivation problem or something else?

I know my own kids, and even myself, have a problem with shyness or fear of being wrong. At work, I don't say anything if I don't know anything and people are asking for facts. At the same time, they aren't often asking for facts, they're asking for opinions or even just brainstorming. In which case I pipe up even though I may be the least among the experts.

It's important for the student to know what they're being asked relative to what they think they can provide: "I can't provide solid answers, but I can give you an idea or an opinion!"