When a child walks through your classroom door, so does a unique personality. As an educator you can create and warm inviting classroom appearance to allow students to feel comfortable. Some children waltz right in fearless, with the ability to talk to the teacher and other children. There are other children who hover close to their parents during open house, feeling uneasy about meeting a new teacher and students in the class. The first few weeks of schools is a significant time to build an encouraging classroom environment where students have the confidence to participate in class all year long. You want your students to have the courage to communicate with others, share ideas in small groups, and speak before the class.
In my first grade classroom, we are not always quiet and sitting still. I provide ample opportunities for students to speak with each other and feel comfortable sharing ideas in class. These six techniques are great methods to encourage speaking in the classroom.
Individual Share- Allow students time to record their thoughts on paper. Students could write in a notebook, on a paper related to an assignment, dry erase board, or even a sticky note. This gives students the chance to gather their thoughts and jot them down before sharing with the class. I find this method to be most beneficial to use in the beginning to build a base of support. You are teaching the students how to think on their own and write down whatever comes to mind. If you have lower grades, drawing a picture to represent their thoughts is also valuable. Students will feel comfortable to draft their thoughts without fear being incorrect or being judged by their classmates. As the teacher, you can make an informal observation of student’s understanding of a particular subject matter.
Think, Pair, Share- Teach students the phrase, “Think, Pair, Share”, “Turn and Talk”, or whatever works for you. Come up with a signal that students will recognize and know they should think about a posed question or discussion topic. Model how you want students to sit as they share their thoughts with a neighbor. My students sit knee to knee, as I encourage the pair to face one another and properly listen while the other student is talking.
Small Group Discussion-There are also times I tell my students, “share with your group”. Often times children can learn more from each other, rather than just hearing from the teacher. Allowing children to talk to the people in their groups will provide an opportunity for group leaders to share and students who are more reluctant, a chance to sit back, listen, and learn from their peers. Small group discussion can be taught during teacher-led small group lessons. Students should learn to take turns talking, provide positive comments, and add more to the conversation. Students can learn how to properly share with one another with a teacher present, then utilize that skill again during a whole group lesson.
Reward System-Offer simple rewards for students who participate in class discussion. You can use sticker charts, tickets, marbles, table tally marks, class money, or any item you prefer. I use this method in conjunction with my classroom management procedures. My class earns tickets throughout the day for a variety of reasons and cooperating during class discussions is the most desirable method of earning tickets. A student can earn a ticket by simply raising his/her hand to answer a question or share a thought or an entire group can earn tickets by working together. As students become more self-reliant, they thrive on earning the reward for simply trying. Even if a child does not give a desirable answer, the child still earns a ticket for his/her effort.
Consider Your Questions and Address “Off Target” Comments- When posing questions to students, avoid rhetorical questions. Provide students a topic discussion that will require complete thoughts and some critical thinking. If a student responds with an off-topic comment, make sure to thank them for the response and attempt to link it back to the concept. This will encourage your students to continue to participate during the current and future lessons.
Assign Leadership Roles-Appointing roles that require students to be leaders and speak in front of their peers may boost self-esteem and allow students to feel more comfortable speaking in the classroom. Students in my classroom have table jobs and each day their jobs rotate. If a student is the table leader for the day, he/she is in charge of speaking for his/her group at certain points of the day. I also assign weekly classroom jobs that urge students to speak during class. I teach first grade and have calendar jobs for several people. The students must teach their calendar part each day that week. In upper grades, assigning a job such as reading the homework board or weekly class goal can provide a simple task to encourage speaking.
Seek out ways to encourage speaking in the classroom. Adopt what works best for you and your students. Remaining positive and allowing a safe space to speak will empower students to find their inner voices. Implementing chances to speak in the classroom will give students experience and encourage self-reliance that will be beneficial as students advance.