“Half of you have a C- in class participation right now.”
My heart sank. Was I really failing that bad in class participation? The part of my grade that is usually so easy to get an “A” in?
The class was Trends in Modern Thought. It was to fulfill my social sciences requirement to graduate. The material was thick as mud. It was a tough class (somehow I received an A). And class participation was actually graded. The professor observed who talked and who didn’t.
I raised my hand and said what I thought was right. I was wrong every time. But, I participated.
You don’t have to make class participation that hard or impossible to reach. It should be fun and easy to participate in your class – not terrifying and impossible.
Here are 5 creative ways to check if your students are participating:
That story above with the C- in class participation? What helped me in that class was going to see my professor for extra help. I wasn’t going to let him intimidate me – I wanted an A (or at least a B+). If students want extra help from you – before or after school – view that as class participation. They want to do better. It takes a lot for students to realize they need help and ask for it. Reward the students who seek help with class participation points.
This is the classic class participation strategy. But, I want to take it one step further. I believe participating in a classroom discussion doesn’t simply mean one or two-word answers to easy questions. It means making a meaningful contribution to the discussion – even if other students disagree. All the more for a lively debate, right?
Just because your students don’t raise their doesn’t mean they’re not participating. If you notice students working together in pairs or teams and certain students are helping others to understand concepts, I’d count that as participation. While it’s not participation with you, it shows your students are willing to teach concepts they understand to their classmates. I’d argue that’s even better than simply raising your hand.
I had a college professor who would check off on his student roster if you participated that class or not. For his intro classes, you had to raise your hand, but for 300 and 400-level classes he offered the option of submitting reading summaries that were 500 words or less. And that would count as your participation. While I only took advantage of it once or twice, I enjoyed having the option if the reading made little to no sense at the time. Try the summary idea with your students and see what they think.
I write this one mainly for the college crowd, but even for the K-12 teachers. Your students have to show up to class to participate. Having perfect attendance could be a great way to motivate students. And make sure to allow for an absence or two because of family matters or sports. It’ll help your introverted students, too. (But, they should be doing one of the above strategies).
Class participation helps students who would otherwise be quiet, be engaged in your classroom. And it’s important to note that participation doesn’t have to mean raising their hand and speaking in front of everyone. There are other ways to incorporate everyone into your lesson.
Do you do anything creative to get your students talking? Let me know in the comments below.