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Increasing Student Participation in the Classroom
A Typical EFL Class in Thailand
Increasing Student Participation in The Classroom
Increasing student participation in the classroom is a big concern for most teachers. Student participation in class is especially important when teaching EFL and ESL listening and speaking courses. The more students practice speaking, the more progress they will make in improving their proficiency. What, then, inhibits many students from participating more in listening and speaking classes?
As a teacher, you undoubtedly notice that only a handful of usually the best students are willing to ask and answer questions in class. Getting any kind of meaningful participation from the majority of class members is like trying to pull teeth. Why? I strongly believe it is because the average student finds a rather dull and unexciting language class very boring. Students, therefore, are not motivated to even try. In today's age of the Internet in which young people are constantly being entertained by video games and social media interaction, students and many schools expect and even demand entertainment in the classroom from teachers.
Enjoyable Activities For Increasing Student Participation
It is absolutely necessary creating an enjoyable learning environment for children in the classroom. One of the ways to do this is by making all learning exercises a kind of game. If we can do this, students will enthusiastically participate in classroom discussion and exercises. In my EFL classes, I have increased classroom participation with the following activities:
1. Tossing a Cloth Ball as an Attention-Getter
In this activity, I use a softball-sized cloth ball as an effective tool for grabbing student attention. For example, when we check homework or do listening exercises on the whiteboard, I will toss the ball into the class. The student who catches or touches the ball must then come to the board to answer a question. The reward for the student is that she now gets the chance to toss the ball back to her classmates. When I stopped bringing the ball to class, a number of students constantly asked me where the ball was. They missed it that much when I didn't use it in class!
2. Student Team Competition
I have found that students work better in groups or teams than individually. Many also enjoy team competition. Hence, when I am practicing or reviewing vocabulary and grammar introduced in lessons, I will play games like "Stop The Bus," "Jeopardy" or games where teams have five to seven minutes to write on the board the most adjectives, adverbs or nouns they can think of. Many students especially like "Stop The Bus." In this vocabulary game, I usually present categories like countries, cities, sports, occupations, and food. Teams members have to work together to think of words for all categories beginning with a certain letter presented by the teacher.
3. Student Individual Competition
Many students also enjoy individual competition in the classroom. I do this by lining up three to five students at the whiteboard and then giving them contests in taking dictation or unscrambling sentences. The student who answers the question correctly and the fastest wins a round and gets to stay at the board while the others sit down.
4. Role Playing Story Dialogs
When I was teaching, our school used the Our Discovery Island series student book and workbook for all grade 1-6 EFL classes. An interesting serialized story in comic strip format is presented in each unit of the book. After students practice listening to and reciting the dialog in the story, they really enjoy role playing the dialog in class. Many students volunteer to do this in the front of the classroom. The kids also have the latitude to move around the class during the role play.
5. Listening to Different Kinds of Music
All students enjoy listening to music. Music is an excellent means of learning vocabulary, correct intonation and internalizing grammatical patterns. Music also enables students to learn and experience emotions such as love, happiness, sadness, anger, fear, and disappointment. In addition, everyone enjoys getting up and dancing to music.
Benefits of Increasing Student Participation
Increasing student participation is beneficial to both students and teachers in the following ways:
1. Student Centered Learning
In teacher centered learning, it is all too common to see and hear a monotoned instructor lecturing in front of the class while most students are talking to other classmates, doing other subject homework or sleeping. In student centered learning, however, students who are coached by their teachers actively and enthusiastically participate in learning exercises.
2. Student Cooperation
When students are put into groups of mixed ability and given a common task, cooperation is developed in the classroom. Stronger students willingly help weaker students, and everyone gains in either teaching or learning experiences.
3. Student Creativity
With increased classroom participation, I have seen student creativity express itself in role playing, problem-solving and dance.
4. Student Motivation to Learn
When every student is participating in class, student motivation is higher and there is a more conducive atmosphere for teaching and learning.
5. Higher Test Scores
Students who constantly participate in classroom discussion and exercises generally score a lot higher than their non-participating classmates.
In any kind of classroom activity, one hundred percent student participation is necessary to ensure that there is successful teaching and learning. This is especially important in EFL and ESL exercises. One of the best ways of getting students to participate in class is through enjoyable game-like activities.
Increasing Student Participation in the Classroom
Which is the best activity for increasing student participation in the classroom?
Our Discovery Island
© 2012 Paul Richard Kuehn