We asked teachers for their best ideas for getting reluctant students to join in class discussions. Here are some of their suggestions that may help you in your classroom.

Discussion Partners
Submitted by Kelly Brown, Cherryville Elementary,Cherryville, NC

After observing my students interact with one another for a few days, I will assign partners. I always partner up my shy students first so I don't run out of outgoing students! I also assign students a space on the carpet beside their partner. When I ask for students to share their ideas/opinions, I have them first discuss with their partner. Then the partners will decide which student  will share with the class. This has really helped my students with participating and sharing their ideas.

Circle Time Strategies
Submitted by Deb Helgeson, The Children's Foundation, Bloomington, IL

I am a preschool teacher and our class discusions usually happen at circle or large group time.  I have found that for my students who are shy they do well as long as they do not have to stand up or call more attention to themselves.  If they don't have anything to contribute I say -why dont' you think about it and we will come back to you.  We use a "talking stick" at circle discussion,so that everyone has an opportunity to participate and listen.  Only the person holding the sick may talk.

Talking Sticks
Submitted by Pamela Connor, St. Andrews School, Savannah, GA

Usually third-graders love to talk but you do have an occassional one who doesn't want to share with the class.  We have a little box where we have sticks with each child's name.  We pull the sticks out at random so the children already know that there is a chance they will be called.  We also do something where we will pull one stick out and if it's a girl she answers the question and then picks a boy.  Then, the boy picks a girl and so on.

Interactive Whiteboard Prompt
Submitted by Jodie Danowsky, Watsontown Elementary, Watsontown, PA

I have a Powerpoint program that will randomly choose a student.  I put each student's name on a slide and view the slide show on my interactive whiteboard.  Pressing ESC chooses a random slide.  This way everyone has an equal chance, but can also be chosen more than once.

Talking Through Your Hat
Submitted by Eric Hartman, St. Anne Christian School, Laguna Niguel, CA

I have a variety of hats in my classroom (that I thoroughly clean regularly) that students may wear, or, if they are reluctant to wear the hat, I advise them to answer a question in a funny voice.  That way they feel less like THEY are answering the question, and everyone feels comfortable. (Of course, as an educator, I have to walk the walk and model for the kids.  This helps to relax us all and open the floor to more comfortable communication.)