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3 Teaching Strategies to Ensure Student Participation

Janelle Cox

Are you sick and tired of the same students raising their hands time and time again, while the other students sit quietly in their seats? Well, you are not alone. Increasing student participation is an obvious goal for teachers because it’s an important part of the learning process. Ideally, the goal of using teaching strategies to increase student participation is to create an environment where all students will actively want to participate in class discussions so they will have the opportunity to learn from different viewpoints.  By implementing active participation teaching strategies, you can ensure that students will be engaged, and when your students are engaged they will participate. While cold calling and pulling popsicle sticks are tricks many teachers use to get their students to talk, it doesn’t make them want to talk and discuss with the class, most of the time it just makes them more frightened to answer the question. So, how can we get our shiest most reluctant students to want to actively participate? Here are three effective teaching strategies that will ensure your students will be engaged.

Whip Around Teaching Strategies

The whip around strategy, or as some call it the “Whip,” is a great way to actively manage the participation of all students. The mechanics of the whip are simple. The instructor poses a question and gives each individual student about 30 seconds to give them an answer. Students learn quite quickly that the teacher values hearing ideas and thoughts from each student in the classroom. Ideally, it’s best to use this strategy in the beginning of the school year so that students get used to the notion that they have a voice in the classroom and they will use it on a regular basis. This gives the students who are not used to exercising their voice or getting their thoughts out a chance to get used to it.

The whip around strategy is a great proactive discussion starter, and any question can be used as a prompt. Teachers often use this strategy in correlation with text and use the following prompt, “What word comes to mind after reading this text?” Then, one at a time, students answer the question. Make sure that students use their own words when answering the question. While some students will want to respond with the same answer as the person before them, make sure that you encourage them to think of another way to phrase their answer so it is unique to them.

Jigsaw Strategy

This popular cooperative learning strategy is an efficient and effective way to encourage students to listen and be engaged in a group setting. Just like a jigsaw puzzle, each member in the group has an essential role in order for the group to function and complete their task. Students learn quickly that in order for their task to be complete they must contribute and do their part. This is where the active participation plays a key role.

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Here’s how it works. Students are divided up into small groups (groups of five usually work best) and each individual is assigned a role or task to complete. For example, if students were learning about the Olympics, you can focus on the swimmer Michael Phelps. Divide his biography into five segments: (1) Early Life (2) Rise to Glory (3) Personal Life (4) Olympic Medalist (5) Other Projects. Each member of the group would be assigned one segment to learn about. Once they have learned their segment, they would be grouped into another jigsaw, with members that are learning the same segment as them. In these new groups, students would discuss key elements and add to their notes. Next, students would go back to their original jigsaw with their new information and take turns presenting to their group what they have learned. As the students take turns presenting to their group, the other students in the group must take notes. Once presentations are complete, students are assessed by either a quiz or by writing an essay about all of the five segments in the biography.

The jigsaw strategy facilitates interaction among students, and no one student can succeed without the other. It is a simple strategy for students to learn as well as for you to implement. Students are engaged at all times and must actively participate in order to complete their task.

Think-Pair-Share

Think-pair-share is another cooperative learning strategy that is perhaps the simplest way to get your students to participate and interact with one another. It gives all students in the classroom a chance to think about, and share their opinion on a given topic. The process for the strategy is simple: Students are given a minute or two to think about the topic, and then they get a chance to talk to their neighbor and share and compare their ideas on that topic. This strategy can be followed by a whole-class discussion where individuals or pairs are encouraged to share their thoughts, or a small group activity.

Think-pair-share only takes a few minutes of your time, and you will find that students get a lot out of it. During pair discussions all students must actively participate which promotes a collaborative more than a competitive atmosphere.

These are just three strategies that promote and engage student participation. When choosing other strategies, be sure to choose strategies that promote equality.

What active learning strategies do you use to ensure student participation in your classroom? Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comment section below, we would love to hear what you do in your classroom.

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.