12th October 2020
Encouraging lesson participation in the shyest pupils can be a challenge but it’s essential to overcome for truly successful learning to occur. Children learn through engagement and if you don’t acknowledge the potential fear that some of your pupils may feel, you might find some students become disconnected, withdraw or even act out.
We’ve put together some ideas for encouraging participation in even the shyest of pupils.
It may not be immediately obvious when you first meet your students or even a few weeks in which ones are less enthused about participating in class and what their reasons are. You might have pupils that simply don’t put their hand up or volunteer to speak – but being quiet doesn’t mean that they don’t have interesting or thoughtful input. It’s worth noting too that shyness or a lack of confidence doesn’t always manifest in this way. It could be the student who messes around the most that is lacking in confidence, or worried that they may be ridiculed by their peers. They might deliberately shout out incorrect or funny answers, or they might display a lack of confidence in other areas, such as making friends.
Encompassing every student’s individual needs is possible – by acknowledging fear, creating a culture of active learner participation and an environment where young people feel comfortable you’ll find that participation naturally increases.
We recently published a series of blogs detailing how to identify and teach different learning styles. Packed full of teaching ideas and suggestions for creative lessons, they might help when planning lessons for the different personality types in your class.
The first task when encouraging active participation from all your students is to establish a sense of safety. For younger children, the prospect of being mocked or laughed at for getting an answer incorrect is often enough to put them off raising their hand at all. Make it clear from the start of term that any contribution is valuable. Wrong answers give an opportunity for further discussion and deeper learning and it may help to remind pupils of this regularly.
Tailoring lessons to build on previously taught content is also a great start. Students feel more successful if they are able to build on the knowledge they already have.
If making changes to your teaching and the culture of understanding isn’t quite enough to draw out your quietest pupils, there are some tried and tested ways in which you can build confidence and get shyer pupils learning and sharing alongside their more confident peers. Here are just a few:
Speaking to a smaller group is much less intimidating than speaking to a room full of 30 individuals. Building lots of collaborative group work into your lessons will encourage lesson participation and bring out the ideas and contributions of your less confident pupils. Dividing topics up and allowing small groups to collaborate on ways to teach the rest of the class their section is a tried and tested technique!
Prepare For Success
Discuss with individual pupils beforehand if you are going to call on them and if necessary, help them to prepare their answer. Doing this a few times will show the pupil that you are invested in their learning, which builds confidence in itself and knowing they are sharing the right information will reduce the fear associated with speaking out loud.
Turn To Talk
Turn To Talk is a technique that gives pupils a set period of time to turn to their neighbour and discuss new concepts or information. For example, you might ask them to turn to their desk buddy and discuss the possible outcomes of a scenario, the definition of a word or the correct maths formula to use. The opportunity to discuss and process their ideas before being called on to give an answer in front of the class will give pupils more confidence in sharing their ideas
Wait To Call
Wait To Call is a technique that involves giving students time to process information before you call on them to raise their hands.There is more information on this technique, it’s history and research into the impact on students participation this can have here.
Creating a way for pupils to anonymously contribute to whole-class learning benefits every pupil. You might ask them to write down their thoughts about a lesson, what their main takeaway was, or a question that wasn’t answered in your teaching. Discussing or displaying ideas from the box can be a weekly endeavour and will give very quiet or shy pupils a reliable way they can contribute towards the class.
Encouraging lesson participation is an ongoing challenge. As the term progresses and you get to know your students better, you’ll often find that shyer students come out of their shell and feel more confident in contributing to the lesson. We’d love to hear your suggestions to – join the conversation on Facebook here.
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