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Teaching Strategies to Increase Discussions

Janelle Cox

What do you think really motivates your students to participate in classroom discussions?

This is a question that many teachers ask themselves quite often because for many, getting students to participate is extremely challenging. Think about what motivated you to participate in classroom discussions when you were a student. Was it seeing that the teacher was enthusiastic, or was it when you were learning about something that was of interest to you?

Whatever the answer is for you, it helped you feel comfortable enough to actively participate in class. Here are a few teaching strategies to increase the likelihood of your students participating in classroom discussions.

Teaching Strategies: Show Students that You’re Enthusiastic about Education

How can teachers expect their students to be enthusiastic about what they are learning if the teacher isn’t enthusiastic about what they are teaching? Think about if you were to walk down the hallway and peek into another classroom. If you saw the students doodling on their papers and looking bored out of their minds, while the teacher mindlessly taught the lesson in a monotone voice, you would might think “Wow, how boring!” Make the effort to be passionate about what you are teaching your students and show them how fun and interesting learning can be.

Teaching Strategies: Use the Multiple Intelligence Theory

You have probably learned all about Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence Theory in college and never imagined that you would really use it. Howard Gardner is widely known for the term “Multiple intelligences” and says that every child learns differently and has different learning styles. The styles that he is referring to can improve student performance and participation in class. These seven styles are: Interpersonal, intrapersonal, visual-spatial, musical, bodily-kinesthetic, logical-mathematical, and linguistic.

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You can use the multiple intelligence theory to find out what each student’s personal learning style is. This will help you plan lessons and activities that will motivate each learner, which in turn will help students want to participate in class discussions and activities.

Utilize Technology

Technology is an exceptional tool to use to get your students intrigued in a lesson and want to actively participate in it. With all of the new educational technology that is out on the market today, it would be a shame not to incorporate it into your daily lessons. Your students are the ones that are the most up-to-date with all of the recent gadgets that are available, so use their expertise to your advantage and incorporate it into your lessons and activities, especially things that utilize the iPad or a tablet. Research shows that students’ report learning is more fun when they are using technology. So, if you don’t have access to a tablet, then a computer will work just as well. Any piece of technology will capture your students’ attention and motive them to want to participate in classroom discussions.

Make Students Feel Comfortable

In every classroom, you can always find a few students that just do not feel comfortable talking in class. Even if they have their best friend sitting next to them, they still are reluctant to speak up. Instead of always calling on the same students, try and keep it fair and promote equal participation by using classroom craft sticks with students’ names on them, or by giving each student a number and using that. For the shy students, try partner activities so they can have a chance to get their voice heard without feeling intimidated and uncomfortable in front of the whole classroom. Once students are used to participating in the partner activities, then you can move on to small groups, followed by whole-class lessons. This will help ease the shy students into feeling comfortable sharing their views, and allow all students to cooperate in classroom discussions.

Limit the Amount of Words that You Use

Have you ever noticed that when people tend to ramble on when they are talking, your own mind tends to drift off? This probably has happened to you once or twice, or even a few hundred times. The next time you are teaching a lesson that lasts for more than ten minutes, take a look around your classroom and see if you can notice a sea of faces gazing out the window or staring at absolutely nothing. Studies have shown that when you use too many words and keep rambling on, then your listeners will lose interest. Try to limit the amount of words you use in each lesson and activity that you are doing. Think short, and to the point if you want to keep your students’ attention. Once you have them engaged, this is when you can get them to actively participate in classroom discussions by using technology, talking about what interests them, and showing them that you are enthusiastic about what they are learning.

Classroom participation is one of those things that most teachers just expect of their students, but not always get. As teachers, we know that by actively participating, our students will learn better. However, as challenging as it may be to get students motivated enough to participate, it is necessary. Try and implement some of the strategies listed above and you will see how quickly your students will actively participate.

How do you increase classroom discussions and student participation? Do you have any tips that work well with your students? Please share your ideas in the comment section below, we would love to hear them.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.