Getting your students to participate doesn’t need to feel like pulling teeth. Here are the first 2 of 4 common problems and how to address them.

studentparticipationpart1As the holiday season winds down, teachers and students prepare to return to school after winter break. It’s always nice to return from vacation with fresh minds and motivation. However, the second half of the year can leave students checked out as they wait for their next big break. Getting students to participate more helps them be more engaged and ready to be completely present in class. Here are two of four common obstacles to participation and what you can do to overcome them.

Content is too Repetitive.

Repetitious content is a necessary evil. If the students don’t understand it, or if you’re reviewing for a test, it has to be done. Unfortunately, it doesn’t engage the students. The K-12 Teachers Alliance has three suggestions for this issue:

  1. KWL chart (or anything to assess prior knowledge.) You certainly want to gauge where the students are at in comprehension, so straight out asking is a great move. In the instance of a KWL chart, it also encourages students in that they see how smart they already are. Students are also able to identify areas in which they thought they knew something but don’t. Tailor your lesson plans around the information given here.
  2. Practice skills grouping. Create groups based on what skills your students most need to learn. This keeps the exercises relevant and creates a comfort level amongst the students – they are less likely to feel embarrassed asking a question when none of them knows the answer. For students who don’t need help in any area, give them extra credit activities or have them look into the next lesson.
  3. Have them teach each other. There is no better way to learn material than to teach it yourself. Additionally, students will have a much different approach to explaining the material than you do. Have them provide activities and tests to deliver their content.

Content is too Hard.

When this is true, it isn’t that the content is impossible to comprehend. In many cases, students don’t feel comfortable asking questions for fear of sounding stupid. Here are a few ways to tackle this:

  1. Provide the opportunity for anonymous questions. Whether you have students submit questions during class or just leave a box for them to drop questions into, there is a key to getting those responses. Students embarrassed to ask questions will feel exposed if they are the only student seen submitting a question. Instruct them to write something –if they don’t have questions, they should write “no questions now” or comment on the material. Make the questioners truly anonymous.
  2. Have groups master individual portions. This is the “jigsaw” approach that utilizes the “teach others” approach. You split up the sections of the content – if you’re teaching fractions, for example, content could be multiplication, division, and conversion – and have each group master the section and teach it to the class.

In our next article, we will cover the remaining two most common reasons students don’t participate in class. Starting the New Year off on the right foot will help students build momentum rather than lose it. For all your plastic school supply needs, like sheet protectors, student card holders, and presentation folders, check out Vinyl Art’s products. We have a vast selection of products and materials that are perfect for your students. Call 800-569-1304 or email