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"Class Participation"-- Understanding Why Some Kids Don't Speak Up in Class



Teachers have more influence on kids' lives than they may realize. They can inspire, support, mentor and encourage.There are many wonderful teachers in this world who never get to hear the feedback from their students -- about how much they have influenced their lives... But that's a whole other article.

This article was written in frustration after speaking to a well-meaning teacher who complained that the kids in his high school science class "never participate." His remedy was to make 50% of the grade dependent on class participation. That seemed to get a few grade-conscious students to raise their hands, but made others more anxious .

From a teacher's perspective, nothing's worse than working with students who appear unresponsive. From a parent's perspective, it may be unsettling to learn that a kid who has much to say at home is silent in school.

Understanding why some kids don't speak up may help teachers and parents encourage quieter kids to be more active participants in class discussions.

Here are 10 reasons kids don't talk in class.

  • Fear of giving the wrong answer

  • Fear of the embarrassment of forgetting what one was going to say

  • .Fear of sounding inarticulate, squeaky, hoarse or grammatically incorrect

  • Feeling intimidated by other "smarter" or more vocal kids in the class

  • Feeling one step behind in a fast- moving discussion

  • Not wanting to be different from friends in class who don't speak up

  • Not wanting to be one of the kids who "wastes the class' time"

  • Fatigue or a wandering mind -- it takes energy to listen

  • Not wanting to show off or seem to be ingratiating oneself

  • Not wanting to say something "obvious" or "trivial"

Plus, there are cultural and personality differences that come into play. In some cultures it's considered bad form to show off individual knowledge or achievement. And while some kids literally think out loud, others need to process their ideas thoroughly before making them public.

Many kids like to participate in discussion where they feel their opinions are respected and there's room for disagreement. Asking interesting, open-ended questions, allowing for diverse responses and helping kids learn from one another creates an atmosphere conducive to participation.

So parents and teachers, please don't punish or penalize kids who don't speak up. Instead, try to understand why they are sitting quietly and find ways of creating a safe setting where they can share their ideas.

IIf you have suggestions for encouraging class discussions in which everyone participates, please Contact Us to share your approach with other readers.

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