The Non-Talkers Really Will Talk

By Scott Knecht Here is something I wanted to write about a while back and thought I did, but was reminded by a friend that it never happened. So here it is now.

The question is how do you get more students to open up and speak more often? Teachers will tell me that their students won’t say anything in class. I think “That’s odd because as they were walking into the classroom they were talking nonstop.” And as soon as class is over and they leave the room they continue their non-stop conversations, but during class time they tend to clam up. So how do we get more out of them, or sometimes how do we get even anything out of them.

Here is one way: if you think that the only way to know that they want to participate is by the raise of the hand then you will miss a lot of opportunities. Students tell teachers all the time that they want to participate, but they don’t do it by the raised, waving, and obvious hand. They tend to be more subtle with their gestures and if you learn to read them – to become the Student Whisperer – you will get them into the conversation much more.

Rule #1 in my class is this: no one has to participate. No one has to volunteer and no one has to speak when called on. All they have to do is say “pass” or simply shake their head. I won’t probe beyond that. That rule tends to make it safe for them and oddly enough increase the likelihood that they will participate. The pressure is gone.

So I’ll ask a question to the class. It is never a ‘guess what I’m thinking’ question and it is rarely a yes/no question. I don’t like those questions Read More

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