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How to Make Class Discussions Engaging

Learn how to create 100 percent engagement during class discussions from education consultant Grace Dearborn in this Howcast video.


How to create 100% engagement during class discussions. There're two ways that're really simple, that anybody could implement right away. And the first one is to have students write down their answers. This is really great if you have little whiteboards, individual whiteboards that each student can have with a marker. So then as you pose a quick question to them, instead of just taking a volunteer or even just calling on a single student randomly you can say, "Everybody, quickly write down a possible response." 100% engagement. Everybody is writing something. Have them hold that up. Look around, see what you've got. Right away, you know who isn't paying attention, who isn't coming into the game here, and you can call on those students. "Johnnie, you didn't write anything on the whiteboard. So let's talk a little bit more about where your confusion is." Or, "Sally, you wrote a very interesting answer, but it is really unconnected with what we were talking about. Tell me how you got there." So that we're bringing them back into the fold and letting everybody know in our class, that we expect 100% of them to participate and to be on task in that participation so that that becomes the norm in our classroom. Whiteboards are super easy to use. They erase the answer. You ask another quick question. They write another quick answer. Has many terrific uses for 100% engagement.

Another strategy you might try is something I call, "All raised hands." This is when you pose a question to a student and you tell the students they all have to raise their hand. Do tell them they use different hand positions depending on where they feel they can come to the question. So for example, "Students. I'm going to ask you a question. You're all going to raise your hand for the answer. If you know the answer, I want your hand straight up, elbow locked nice and straight. If you think you know the answer, you've got a partial answer, something interesting you want to contribute, give me an 'L' or a right angle. And if you have no idea what the answer is, or possibly what the question was thumb to the head." Very quickly now, I can see when I pose a question how many students feel like they have an answer, have a partial or aren't paying attention or don't know, by where their hand position is. But it requires 100% engagement in the activity. Nobody can just be spacing out and doing nothing. So that's two ideas for creating 100% engagement in your classroom.

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