Most people get embarrassed at some point in their life. Maybe it was during your school years, or while out shopping, or in front of a class of students (as the teacher). We have ways to help ourselves through these situations but how do we help our students?

The student that isn’t paying attention

Have a way to randomly call on students. They may not like it but more of them will pay attention. You can use a random number generator and assign all students numbers. I didn’t do so well with this one, I could never remember which student had which number.

I did best when I did the classic popsicle stick name grab. Well actually, I used the leftover rulers from standardized testing to put their names on. Good use of recycling old items. You can write their names or you can print them out and tape them on. Whichever is better for you.

But, as a rule, always put the name back in. They will get lazy after you call their name if they think they are not being called on again. I had some days where the same student got called on 3-4 times in one class.

The shy or scared student

This student may be difficult to help. You don’t want them to be too anxious about answering questions. You can only call on them when you are positive they know the answer the first few times to boost their confidence. Talk them through the answer. It will mean the world to them if they know you are willing to help them through the answer.

The student that thinks they are always wrong

Give them a few easy questions. Boost their confidence. And make sure you tell them it is OK to be wrong. That no one knows everything and everyone is wrong sometimes, including the teacher!

The student that is worried their teacher will get mad if they ask a question or answer incorrectly

I had no idea I was going to run into this type of student when I started teaching. I mean, what teacher gets mad about a question? Or a wrong answer? Not ‘What are the instructions?’ for the 4th time or ‘Do we have to work today?’ types of questions. Real questions. ‘I don’t understand what you just said, can you explain it to me?’ or ‘How does that happen?’, etc.

At the beginning of each year the students are still learning me and my class and tend to be quiet and keep to themselves. I ask questions and get zero responses. No hands up. Nothing. One day I decided to ask. Why isn’t anyone trying to answer the questions? I actually got an answer here, interestingly enough. The young man said that if he answers wrong I may get mad and not want him to answer any more. I thought he was joking at first but no, he meant it.

This lead to a discussion about participation. Apparently there are a number of teachers that actually get mad at wrong answers (legitimately wrong, not just silly guesses). Teachers have told them (this happened to many of my students) that they aren’t allowed to raise their hand anymore because they can’t answer questions correctly. Or they refuse to let them work a problem on the board for the same reason. WHAT?? WHY? Why would any teacher get upset by this.

Something that I started incorporating into my beginning of the year procedures was a mini discussion on how to participate in class. I discussed questions and answers and how important it is to be involved in a class discussion. There is one line I used so much that my students would sometimes say it with me, ‘I would rather have all of you answer every question wrong during a class discussion than none of you say anything at all. It means you are engaged and learning.’

If you have any tips and tricks to help a kid participate, please add them to the comments below.