Teachers can help students feel more comfortable participating in discussions by changing how they encourage sharing and peer support in the classroom, Rachel Fuhrman, a middle school special education math teacher, writes for Edutopia.
Restructuring how teachers address students' mistakes can also help, by shifting focus toward praising students who share — even if an answer is wrong — and stopping any putdowns from fellow students. Offering alternate ways for shy students to participate, including giving them a heads up they’ll be called on so they have time to prepare,, is another recommendation.
In addition, creating small groups can boost student confidence. This method allows students to share ideas first with a smaller circle and then develop more self-assurance of their abilities and voice.
Helping students find their voice can start by establishing a supportive and encouraging classroom at the start of the school year. Social-emotional learning tools help foster that environment by seeding students with skills to help them develop empathy and motivate them to work collaboratively with each other.
Educators may initially encounter hurdles as they encourage more students to take part in classroom conversations. For example, some students might feel increased pressure when called upon to speak more frequently. This can tap into feelings of shyness or even anxiety. However, a classroom employing SEL tools may create a more reassuring and considerate space, motivating peers to back up their classmates when they need help.
Teachers can also focus on building a growth mindset in classrooms, where learners see their success anchored in their development and where challenges are normal. That skill will help support children while they’re in school — and also later in the workplace.
Reorganizing classroom seating can help, too. One approach is to arrange desks in a circle rather than in rows. Sitting in a circle creates a more empathetic and trusting space for students and may help with classroom management as well.