Do you ever feel ‘guilty’ for putting one of your quiet students on the spot? Or do you find yourself regularly calling on one of your chatterboxes to prevent any ‘quiet-student-discomfort’?
What if you are landed with an entire class of ‘thinkers’?
I’ve noticed in observations that for many teachers, it’s their natural instinct to compensate for this with more teacher-talk to fill in the awkward silences ….which isn’t the answer either.
The good news is that there are strategies for encouraging quiet students to be more confident in their spoken production in class. Do they work? Yes! Tried and tested!
Get them Speaking!
The Prepared One
The quiet ones are often reflective learners and require more time than an active learner, who thinks as they speak, to structure a response in their minds and formulate their thoughts before speaking out in front of their class. Calling on quiet/introvert students and forcing them into the spotlight can be very stressful. Give them adequate time to prepare their opinions before asking them to speak in front of the class. Tell them that in five minutes, you will be asking them for their opinion so that they know what’s coming….
The Unsurprised One
As well as outlining your lesson objectives and adding these to your whiteboard at the beginning of your lesson, why not inform your students of how you are going to structure your lessons in terms of class participation today?
1) pair work discussion on the topic of crime in your country
2) summarise your partner’s opinions for the class
3) group work discussion on crimes/punishments
4) group swap to share opinions/ideas with new group
By doing this, you are eliminating the element of surprise for your quieter students and giving them time to mentally prepare for a task they might not feel comfortable about, such as the group work discussion and in turn, creating a comfortable and non-threatening condition to express their opinions.
The Informed One
It’s not a secret, is it? At the end of your lesson, inform your students of tomorrow’s topic. This will give your less confident and quieter students time to go home and prepare their thoughts in a structured way so that they are not left tongue-tied when asked for their opinion on ‘Drink-driving’. You could even start a discussion forum using MAILVU, an online tool to record audio messages. You could set a lead-in question on a topic and ask your students to reply to you with an opinion, which can be expanded on the next day in class.
The Relaxed One
Do you have one or two students who are first to give their opinion, ask and answer a question, jump in before you finish giving instructions? Try to become more aware of how you manage these students. It’s very easy to let students like these take control of the class….while the quieter students relax, sitting calmly back, thinking, ‘Pablo will answer this.’ Don’t go for the raised hand each time; give others an opportunity to answer. Maybe the quiet student who hasn’t said anything yet will come forward with her opinions she prepared last night….
The Observant One
How well are you doing at ensuring all students are participating, that nobody is left out, that no one student is dominating, giving nobody else a look in? Maybe your students are aware of participatory patterns/habits forming in the class that you’re not! Use their feedback to inform your classroom management…