Let's Chat: Keeping Students Engaged via Class Discussion
Let's chat! Class discussion is effective in keeping students engaged, if you can keep the conversation going. So why do so many teachers minimize class discussion time or exclude it altogether?
There's no discussion in my class discussion.
We all know that you can lead the horse to water... But how do you get students to participate and contribute to class discussion? It likely won't happen overnight, but by setting a precedence of importance to class discussion, students will soon be clued in that participation is critical. How? Make class discussion an important part of your lesson plans. Do it regularly. Give students participation grades...not the 2 points that will get them from the 79% to the 80% at the end of the semester, but REAL points that make an impact on their overall grade. And, be sure to include important points from class discussion on assessments.
Anything can happen in my class discussion.
To some extent, that is true. Class discussion means that the CLASS has some control over where the lesson goes. And with all the other distractions going on in the classroom I'm asking you to give up even more control. To minimize irrelevant tangents and to keep students on the learning highway when they're trying to take the scenic route, jump in and redirect. And when the scenic route looks promising, be sure to allow them to wander a bit. Provide questions ahead of time and ask students to prepare for discussion. You can be specific. To make sure everyone participates, assign different questions to different students or groups of students.
What if my class discussion fizzles or fails?
Yeah, it's probably going to happen. Initially, class discussion probably isn't going to be on your students' list of favorites. But stay positive. If you are in the least uncomfortable with it, they're going to smell your fear. Have a few new and interesting and thoughtful questions to ask. Encourage students to ask questions. Allow students to use their smartphones or tablets to find answers and share from their different sources. If a class discussion completely bombs, move on to something else...but don't give up on it. Remember, you have to establish class discussion as routine and relevant and fun. Ask students to suggest topics for future class discussions. Students will get the hang of it after several attempts.
My inspiration today? This article in Edutopia that includes strategies to motivate students to participate.
About Sarah Layton
Sarah has been with AES since 1998, first serving as a curriculum developer, and now as a customer support analyst and content creator. She is committed to helping instructors gain experience and confidence using our solutions and to providing excellent customer care. Sarah has a bachelor’s of arts degree in English and technical writing from the University of Delaware. In her previous professional life, she was a writer, editor, and publisher in both the hospitality and advertising industries. She lives in Lititz, Pa., with her husband, two children, and the best old dog ever, enjoying every moment of the chaos they all create.