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Calling on Non-Volunteers

Some students (even very good ones) seem so shy that they never hold up their hands when you ask a class question. If you call on this student and he/she doesn't know the answer, you risk turning them off for good. On the other hand, if they do supply an answer, you have created participation. One tactic (as mentioned in our lesson) would be to ask "opinion" type questions in this situation, since no right/wrong is involved. In my experience, however, shy students often answer "yes" or "no" or "not sure" to wiggle out of having to say something. Any other ideas?

Hi Fred,
Good ideas for getting silent students to speak up. A couple of other strategies I use is to break the class up in groups. I find many quiet students will start to speak up when they are in a small group. I help this along by having them discuss their previous experience with the field or something along that line.
The other thing I do is assign "observers" for a part of a lecture or demonstration. The observer does not speak during the class discussion but takes notes on a form I supply. The form is a type of guided notes format. The student then presents a summary of what has been covered, working from the notes that have been taken. This gets the quiet student involved, is low pressure since they are working from notes and they don't have to speak for a long period of time.

I also agree that some students are shy, but on the other hand some students don't participate because they do not understand the information and are intimidated.

Hi Talin,
You are correct with your statement about some students not understanding the information and don't want to risk making a mistake in front of the class. This is why I use small groups for discussion to help the students to become comfortable with the material as well as speaking to fellow students.

I frequently will call on non participators. I tell them at the start of the quarter that I like everyone to participate and that I will call on them if they do not. I have also at times made a game of it. I make them the resident expert. So, we may have 20 minutes where someone is the "Ask ________" (Kind of like Ask Jeeves." The students seem to get a kick out of it. I let the people who want to talk answer. I do not say of it is correct of not and then our expert let's us know. That way they already have an answer to work with!

Hi Vipan,
The key in calling on non participators is to allow them to contribute without them feeling that they are targets. There are many reasons for students to hang back with answers. Your method gives them opportunity without stress. I like your method of allowing them to prepare an answer in their minds before speaking.

How do you handle non-volunteers when they are not interested in the subject being taught?

Hi Meredith,
A couple of ways. First, you can use groups projects to get such students involved in a smaller setting. They generally will become involved due to peer pressure and their wanting their group to succeed.
If this doesn't work you can assign them certain projects that they will share with the class. They know they are accountable for this information and to share it with their fellow students.
I also talk with such students and try to encourage them to become involved since by getting through my class they will get to move onto something that will be of interest to them.

I have found that by referring back to something a shy person has said to me outside of class on the subject we are studying will often allow them to be braver in class.

This sounds great. I will definitely try this. Thank you!

That is a good idea to ask opinion questions. Usually at the start of a block I ask my culinary math students who wants to be an Exec Chef and who wants to own their own business. Then I ask who is going to hire someone to take care of their money? That leads me right into the importance of the math class. Once we get into the class and I see those who are struggling or shy to answer questions, I will talk to them prior to class and ask if they are comfortable to answer a question on the board. I always assure them that if they get stuck I will walk them through it. Usually, I get them to explain it, however, if they had a LOT of trouble, then I will explain it for them.

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