Four Tips For Equitable Participation In The Classroom

Heather, a veteran teacher, shares her tips for creating a classroom where all students participate. These are strategies you can try right away in your classroom to make sure you hear from all of your students.

four tips to ensure all students are participating

Each new school year brings a brand new batch of students. Some of your students will be very vocal, natural born leaders. Others will prefer to blend in with the woodwork, completely content with getting called upon minimally, without drawing attention to themselves. When it comes to ensuring that all students have a chance to contribute to classroom discussions and volunteer answers (whether they want to or not), there are some strategies you can try to make participation equitable for all.

Use the Grouping Strategy

If you have a few students who do most of the participating in your classroom, consider giving the grouping strategy a try. It’s easy for your students to understand, and it pushes them to remain alert and attentive. All you need to do is make sure your classroom contains groups of desks (no more than 8). When going over independent work, for example; call on a student in your first group cluster. After they answer, move to your second group cluster and call on a different student. Repeat this process, moving from group to group, to ensure that a different student is called on each time! You can even utilize this strategy by calling on students using a boy/girl rotation.

Take a Back Seat

Student led groups are a great way to get everyone involved, and it allows you to take a back seat to some aspects of instruction. You can assign students to small groups based on each child’s personality. This way, your more outgoing, confident students can be a speaker/representative for the group when it’s time to present or share answers with the class. You can assign a more reserved student the role of note taker, materials collector, or even the artist. Student led groups work great when reading novels, completing social studies or science projects, or even solving math word problems.

Offer More STEAM Options

Most children learn best when learning though kinesthetic opportunities. Consider planning more STEM lessons. All students need to pre-plan a design, share their thoughts, and then pitch in to construct objects or incorporate art in the activity. It builds confidence and encourages participation in a smaller group setting, which is less intimidating than speaking in front of the whole class.

Post a Sticker Chart

Consider posting a participation sticker chart in your classroom, which is easily seen by all. This strategy works great for older school aged children. At the end of each day (or week, if first starting out), scroll through the list of students in your class and give them a sticker if you feel that you have observed them vocally and actively participating during direct instruction or when working in pairs. This may be enough motivation for students to go out of their way and take more of an active role during the learning process. Some students may need some kind of tangible reward, like a prize from your prize basket after earning a designated number of stickers. Regardless of how you decide to set it up, it can be quite a motivator for your students. It’s also a great resource to show parents when discussing participation concerns with them.

Why is equitable participation so important in your classroom? It helps give those who are mild and meek, a chance to be heard over strong and outgoing personalities. It also helps you assess each child informally so you can drive your instruction properly, and lead discussions appropriately. Consider giving these several simple suggestions a try to ensure equitable participation with your new group of students this year, and all year.

Here are some additional resources to support equitable participation: Tips and Strategies For Making Student Thinking Visible and Five Easy Tips For Increasing Student Engagement

How do you ensure equitable participation in your classroom? Share with us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Heather Aulisio is a third grade teacher in Pennsylvania. She has been a teacher for nearly 15 years and holds multiple degrees and certifications. A freelancer for The Mailbox and other education-related clients and publications, she enjoys writing in order to help and entertain fellow teachers. She currently resides with her husband, Bryan; son, Matthew; and two pugs, Lily and Leo.


loading gif