Get Your Students to Speak Up During Class



Do you ever have a class period where it feels like your students are asleep? You’re introducing an exciting new topic but no one seems to be interested. You throw out a question but no one volunteers an answer. How do you get your students to wake up and speak up during class?

Here are a few tips to help you inspire your students to volunteer their thoughts and answers, without making it terribly painful.

Engage your students. If you can do this, you’re golden. If you’re engaging your students in a conversation throughout class, they’ll be tuned in to what’s going on. They will be thinking about what you’re saying and putting thought into the ideas that you bring forward. When you ask a question, chances are someone will be able and willing to answer.

Teach with energy and excitement. Professors that get excited about the subjects they teach are far more fun and interesting to listen to than someone who drones on in a class he really didn’t want to teach in the first place. I speak from experience. I never honestly thought I would leave an econ lecture feeling happy that I came to class and like I learned something valuable…until I met Dr. Lee. She would get so excited about economics that not only did I enjoy class, I enjoyed learning about the concepts she introduced.

Use real world examples. Another of Dr. Lee’s many teaching talents was her ability to use real world examples. Real world examples of economic situations aren’t hard to come by, but no matter how simple, they help students to learn and apply concepts to what really matters – the real world. Plus, when a student can see how something applies directly to his or her life, it makes more sense and sticks a bit better in the brain.

Ask good questions. There is a difference between a good question and a bad one. Good questions are capable of sparking conversations, thoughts, and sometimes lead to even more questions. Ask questions that students want to answer, discuss and debate.

Give students an idea of what to expect. If you have a good syllabus, students should know what to expect during class before they arrive. Encourage them to read the chapter or look through assignments and practice questions before class starts so they are aware of what you’ll be talking about and have more confidence to share ideas and answer questions.

Respond well to wrong answers. Don’t embarrass a student if he volunteers a wrong answer. Maybe he misunderstood your question. Or, maybe he was just wrong. Either way, if you make him feel stupid, he’ll be much less likely to raise his hand the next time around.

Don’t catch your students off guard. If students know you randomly call on students throughout class, it may make them nervous. Instead of being truly engaged, they take unnecessary notes to refer to in case they are called on. The down fall? It’s likely that nervous students will only pay attention to what’s going on until they are called on. After that, they know they are off the hook (for the most part) and will tune the rest of the lecture out.

Walk amongst your students while lecturing. Instead of standing at the front of your classroom, connect with your students a bit more by walking up and down aisles or moving around by the front row. This makes you seem more down to earth and willing to interact on the same level with your students.

Poll your students. This is a great way to get your students to participate in class discussions without making anyone feel targeted. Plus, it’s a way to hear from everyone at once!

What are some other ways you get your students to speak up during class? Share with us in the comments!