If, as I stated in the previous blog post, the person who speaks the most in the classroom learns the most, then establishing equity is an vital consideration in class management. While some children love to contribute in class discussions, others are silent unless actually called upon. Once in a while you will have a student who is such compulsive communicator that he/she completely dominates every discussion in the classroom. How do you regulate the interactions of such differing learners to create the conditions for equity in your class?
Here are four strategies I’ve found useful.
Write each student’s name on a separate small card, perhaps a playing card. Keep these cards handily near your teaching spot. Whenever you are ready to call upon a student to answer a question, resist the temptation to call on one of the waving hands. Instead pull a card from the pack. The result of this small change is that now all the students are forced to prepare an answer to the question in their minds, as no one knows which name will be pulled. This puts an end to the silent fail, students who opt out of answering questions in class and rely on others to do all the brain work while they cruise and snooze.
This is quite a classic in the teacher’s toolbox, but is very nicely described on the wonderful Rick Morris’ site: New Management.
This site, by the way, is a wonderful treasure trove of brilliant ideas for making classroom management simpler and easier to handle.
When I had a compulsive communicator in my classroom I was at my wits end what to do with her! After many reminders and several long discussions I could see I was not getting through to her. I didn’t want to crush her enthusiasm, but she was completely unaware of how dominating her communication habits were. I finally hit upon the strategy to give her a copy of the class checklist and put her in charge of checking off everyone’s name as they contributed during each lesson. I told her my goal was to make sure that every single student spoke during every lesson and asked her to help me to make sure that we gave everyone a fair share of air time.The effect of this was that she was not allowed to speak again until everyone had participated. She was astounded to discover how little she would be able to speak if everyone had a fair share! A side benefit of this was to make her much more selective about what she decided to talk about and to focus on quality rather than quantity in her responses!
“Get your 2 cents in!”
This is a nice game to play with your class to teach equity. Give each student a paper cup and two cent coins. They should place these in front of them on the desk. During the class discussion whenever they participate they can put one cent into the cup. The goal is to get everyone to get the two coins into the cup by the end of the lesson. This lesson structures communication: students who are normally talkative need to think more carefully about what they choose to say, while it sets a participation goal for those who are normally silent.
In this activity only the pens are allowed to do the talking! Hang a large sheet of butcher paper along the wall and invite students to silently respond in writing to a focus question. They can draw arrows to link ideas, add smiley faces, stars and checks to show agreement. The only rule is to read and respond, but no talking! It seems counter intuitive but this change in dynamic leads to greater equity in participation.
Chalk Talk is one of my class’s favorite activities and I first learned it during Critical Friends Group training. This protocol is developed by the NSRF and can be found on their website here.
Do you have a favorite way to promote equity? Please share!