Encouraging student participation can be difficult.
Students who generally perform well will be more willing to volunteer and more confident when completing exercises whereas students who struggle in the classroom will be more reluctant to do these things. As a teacher there are many ways you can encourage all your students to participate in activities.
How To Encourage Student Participation
Ensuring that you maintain a constructive classroom environment will help immensely. It is important that students not feel like they will be laughed at or given negative feedback. Try to provide students with positive criticism as opposed to reinforcing the fact that they have made a mistake or performed poorly. Making mistakes is simply part of the learning process and students that make mistakes will give you a good idea of what you need to focus on because there are probably other students in your class that have the same questions or misunderstandings.
Activities for All Types of Learners
Planning exercises that appeal to different types of learners is an essential part of getting all your students to participate. Perhaps some students who perform well on tests are quite shy while students who perform poorly on tests are natural performers and enjoy role play activities. Giving a range of activities that target visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners will increase student participation. The more variety there is in your lessons, the more your students will gain from them. Having a combination of worksheets, role-plays, games, listening exercises, etc. will keep students engaged and provide them with plenty of practice.
In group activities making groups or teams and having races often gets students motivated. Competition will drive students to not only be the best performing group but also work hard to not let down their teammates. These activities should still be conducted in an encouraging and friendly environment so as to not cause your students lots of stress. It is important to have students take turns when working in groups so that all students are required to participate. While working as a group to answer a question is great, there should be a set order that determines which student presents the answer to the class at any given point in the activity. By having students form groups in a variety of ways, you can ensure that students are placed in different groups throughout the course and thus no serious rivalry can take root between groups of students. Sometimes simply the satisfaction of winning is not enough to motive students and then just as you would for motivating students at the individual level, prizes or points may help.
Individual Level Incentives
At the individual level incentives such as points or, if acceptable on occasion, some sort of prize may lead students to participate more fully in activities. Participation should always be kept in mind when grading students however besides reminding students that they are graded on participation, it can be challenging for both you and them to keep a record of it. A points system where students acquire stickers or stamps throughout the semester by volunteering to answer questions or doing exceptional work in class would be a good idea. Simply tell students that they need maybe ten points to get one hundred percent for their participation grade in a semester and that additional points could be considered extra credit. If a student has a little card to collect these stickers or stamps, it will serve as a visual reminder throughout the term of how well they are doing in reaching the target number and will make calculating a student’s overall participation much easier for you as well. Towards the end of the term it is a good idea to have a lesson where students place their cards on their desks so that you can give students who have not actively participated much throughout the semester special opportunities to raise their score somewhat as opposed to giving very active students too many extra credit points.
Students need to practice speaking English to improve so it is in their best interest to participate fully during their lessons. You can plan lessons accordingly and start incentive programs in order to encourage students to try their best and speak more often in class.
Tara Arntsen has worked with English Language Learners of all ages for many years and has taught in Japan, Cambodia, and China as well as online. When she is not teaching, she enjoys cooking, traveling around the world, and scuba diving. She is a member of the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi and is currently pursuing an M.A. in Teaching-TESOL at the University of Southern California.
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It's a very good article. I'm a brazilian teacher, and sometimes get confused in my classes, because my students are differents. Some of them have more difficulties than others and I have to know how to treat it! Tks.
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