Five ways to encourage EVERYONE in your class to share their ideas


We’ve all been there. You’re facilitating a class discussion with a group of 30 students and the same 3 students keep answering EVERY SINGLE question (and they aren’t necessarily the more intelligent ones). By about the fifth time, one of these students speaks you awkwardly ignore the fact that their arm is waving around vigorously in the air and say “Does anyone else have anything to say?” you then pause and ask “Anyone?” At this point it’s tempting to just pick a random student and make them share their idea or share whatever they’re thinking (whether it’s on topic or not). However, this can be humiliating for the student and may discourage them from ever putting their hand up!

The following ideas describe ways in which I have encouraged my students to share their ideas, without embarrassment:

  • The good ole ‘Think, Pair Share’. I’m sure you’ve had this thinking tool shoved down your throats at many professional development sessions. BUT I would argue that there is a reason why… It actually works! Believe it or not but some students need:
  1. a) Time to think before answering a question, and
  2. b) Someone to pass their ideas by before risking sharing an idea and having 29 pairs of eyes rolled at them (we all know how brutal school can be).
  • Post it ‘Know’te. No matter how hard we try, some students just aren’t going to speak in front of their peers. They may be really shy, lack confidence or have been scarred by past “share time” experiences that have gotten ugly. If students write their idea on a post-it-note that is stuck on a whiteboard alongside their peers post-it-notes then their idea is less likely to be “stuck” to them (hehe get it?) or tracked back to them.
  • She said, he said. I don’t know about you but for some reason I feel more comfortable relaying what someone else has said in front of a large group than sharing my own thoughts. It’s almost like if it’s wrong or sounds silly then it’s not my responsibility. To test out a strategy that reduces student accountability for ideas, pair-up or group your students and get them to share their ideas with just one or a few other students (this is a lot less confronting than speaking to a large group). Then ask one group member to share an idea that his or her “group” (shared responsibility) came up with.
  • ‘Write as you think’ This one is for those students who spend their class discussion time gazing out the window, dreaming about sliding down the slippery dip at play time or trying to work out why there is a dictionary in the reading corner. If EVERY student has to respond to the questions that you pose then they have no choice but to focus in class and gather ideas to share with their peers.
  • ‘Share Around’ Ask your students to sit in a circle and take turns sharing their ideas by going around the circle, one-by-one. Let students know that there is the option to say “pass”. See if more students are willing to share their ideas using this strategy. I can’t put my finger on it but for some reason this has been successful with my classes. I haven’t actually worked out why yet but there must be a reason. Either way, it’s a winner!

If you have any others please post them below (or if you’re a bit embarrassed maybe you could have a think, pair up with someone for a chat and then share your idea with me) 😉