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Getting Kids to Talk!

I've been having trouble the past year or two getting students willing to talk, answer questions or share their ideas in class.  What strategies/activities do you use to help kids feel more comfortable talking and sharing in your class?  i'm looking for more high school aged ideas.

Chris Leverington
Chris Leverington
4015 Activity Points

Hello Chris,

There are few things worse than looking at a group of quiet students when you really want them to participate!  The interactions between students are among the best active methods of learning.  I addressed how to get discussions started in another post (https://learningcenter.nsta.org/discuss/default.aspx?tid=7vOyWCQOcg4_E#88993 ). 

To add to that...

I have found hand-held white boards excellent tools to get students involved.  Every student or pair of students can write down short answers, sketch graphs, or indicate their understanding for quick feedback.  Keep this activity moving along so students don’t have too much down time.

You can set up learning circles for larger groups to discuss topics.  Set up rules on how they need to work: always stop at each and every person in order as you go around the circle in the same direction – never skipping or reversing.  Consider passing a “talking stick” or a token that, when held, gives that person the floor for the discussion.

Hope this helps!

- Gabe Kraljevic

Gabe Kraljevic
Gabe Kraljevic
4079 Activity Points

Hello Chris, I work more with the younger students. More specificially in Early Childhood Education. I am not a teacher yet, but am studying to be one, almost there! I did my observations this past semester in a Kindergarten classroom, where I experienced the same issue. Students were shy, timid, and did not want to engage in class discussions. I couldn't figure out why until I did a little digging of my own. I spent a little one on one time with the student and asked encouraging questions (with a soft and inviting tone). I opened up with a simple conversation and then went on to ask about home life, which language his family spoke at home, what he felt more comfortable speaking in, if he liked school, and about his interests. As it turns out, the student was a English Language Learner and wasn't understanding some of the terms being mentioned hence his hesitance to answer. He was made fun of because of his accent so he ended up disliking school all together. After some more one on one time with me and my mentor teacher, we were finally able to get him to open up. This might help in your case as well. Spend some one on one time and get to the root of the problem. 

Good luck!

-Marilu Moreno

Marilu Moreno
Marilu Moreno
210 Activity Points

Chris, I feel that the most important aspect to getting students to be engaged in discussion is establishing a sense of safety. Students will share thoughts and ideas if they are comfortable and know that their ideas will be accepted rather than looked down upon. The way in which you interact, both verbally and nonverbally, communicates to students your attitude about participation. To encourage more participation, have students think-pair-share in partners before sharing ideas to the entire class or have students share ideas through Socratic Circles. 

Nicole Henson
Nicole Henson
205 Activity Points

Hi Chris -- There are many reasons why students may be hesitant to talk in class -- a language barrier, shyness, insecurity about being wrong, a fear of being ridiculed, etc. It may help to have class norms for respectful discussions (e.g., no interrupting or laughing, listen attentively). I found in my classrooms that "wait time" was an effective way to give students a few seconds of time to gather their thoughts. The "think-pair-share" strategy gives students a chance to discuss with a partner before talking to the entire class. Other cooperative learning techniques use a reporter to share group results. This might be a good role for students who are heisitant to share. I was a quiet one in class, and I appreciated the teacher who asked me about what I thought in a nonthreatening way. == Mary B

Mary Bigelow
Mary Bigelow
10070 Activity Points

Hi Mary- Thank you for this response! I am currently working towards my masters in teaching at the University of Arkansas. Something that was just talked about in one of my classes was giving more wait time to students, especially to ELLs to give them more time to gather their thoughts. We also went very in depth on how to carry out the think-pair-share method. It is encouraging to hear something in class and then to know it is a strategy that is acually and actively used in the classroom. 

Alyssa Busbee
Alyssa Busbee
230 Activity Points

Something we spoke about in school was scaffolding this sort of technique. That is to say, give them the option to talk in a smaller group before escalating it to a whole-class discussion. Additionally, some students may never really be interested in talking, in which case, you may have to find other ways to get them to participate in classroom activities. 

Best!

Colleen

Colleen Joseph
Colleen Joseph
195 Activity Points

Hello Chris, 

I do agree with the ideas of having hand-held white boards for studnts to share their answers individually or with a pair of students. This will allow all of the students to participate when answering questions. Another thing that I consider helpful is having the students in group discussions, so that all of the students will be involved when it comes to a class discussion. Therefore, always let the students know that it is okay if they do not answer the question or discussions correctly. 

Rosalinda Avila
Rosalinda Avila
255 Activity Points

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