How to Get Students to Participate: 29 Great Strategies

How to get students to participate in class more often? 

That’s a million-dollar question that seems easy to answer, but as teachers know, it’s not quite that simple.

Your classroom is full of different types of personalities, learning styles, and moods.

It can be hard trying to decode how to get each and every student involved in the day’s lesson or activity.

But now you’ll have some ideas that you can start trying with students as soon as possible. 

By implementing these strategies in a meaningful way, you’ll have students engaged, discussing, and participating confidently, even the shy and quiet ones.

Why Should I Even Bother Trying to Get Students to Participate In Class?

Active student participation in class is important for several reasons. It…

  • Results in deeper engagement with the subject matter
  • Encourages critical thinking plus problem-solving skills
  • Gives a sense of ownership over learning
  • Promotes effective communication and collaboration
  • Builds self-confidence and public speaking abilities
  • Empowers students to become active, lifelong learners who are better prepared to navigate real-world challenges and contribute meaningfully to a wider range of discussions.

So in essence, getting students to participate in class activities greatly enhances their learning experience. 

Here are some strategies you can use to encourage student participation.

How to Get Students to Participate In Class

1. Create a Positive Environment.

Make the classroom a safe classroom atmosphere where students feel comfortable sharing their thoughts without fear of judgment.

Use positive reinforcement to acknowledge and appreciate students’ contributions, no matter how small.

2. Set Clear Expectations

Clearly communicate your expectations for participation from the beginning of the course.

Let students know how their participation will be assessed and its importance in their learning journey.

3. Incorporate Different Participation Formats.

Mix up participation formats to cater to different learning styles.

Use group discussions, individual presentations, debates, and small-group activities.

4. Use Engaging Content.

Choose topics and materials that are relevant, interesting, and relatable to your students.

When content is engaging, students are more likely to want to discuss and participate.

5. Teach Using Active Learning Strategies.

Incorporate active learning techniques like problem-solving activities, case studies, simulations, and hands-on projects.

These methods naturally encourage participation.

6. Try Questioning Techniques.

Use open-ended questions that require more than a simple yes or no answer. This prompts students to think critically and share their opinions.

7. Provide Wait Time.

After asking a question, give students sufficient time to formulate their responses. Sometimes, students need a moment to gather their thoughts before sharing.

8. Plan Small Group Activities.

Break students into small groups to discuss a topic or solve a problem. This can help introverted students feel more comfortable participating.

9. Prompt Peer Interaction.

Encourage peer-to-peer interaction by having students work in pairs or groups to answer questions or solve problems.

This can help build confidence and encourage participation.

10. Integrate Technology.

Utilize online platforms or tools that allow students to participate digitally, especially for shy or reserved students who might feel more comfortable sharing their thoughts online.

11. Offer Students’ Choice.

Give students some degree of choice in the topics they explore or the projects they work on.

When students have ownership over their learning, they are more likely to engage actively.

12. Give Helpful Feedback.

Provide constructive feedback on students’ contributions.

Let them know how their ideas contribute to the overall discussion or understanding of the subject.

13. Model What You Expect.

Lead by example.

Share your enthusiasm for the subject matter and model active participation during class discussions.

14. Do a Gradual Progression.

If you have students who are hesitant to participate, start with low-pressure activities and gradually increase the complexity and visibility of their participation.

How to Get Students to Participate in Class Discussions

15. Choose Relevant Topics.

Select topics that are interesting and relevant to students’ lives. This increases their motivation to participate.

16. Use Icebreakers.

Start with light, non-academic icebreaker activities to warm up the class and build rapport.

17. Incorporate Student Interests.

Relate the discussion to current events, pop culture, or areas of personal interest.

18. Reward Participation.

Acknowledge and praise students who contribute to discussions. This can boost their confidence and motivation.

19. Be. Flexibility.

Be open to unexpected directions the discussion might take. Sometimes the best learning comes from unexpected tangents.

How to Get Quiet Students to Participate

Getting quiet, shy, or introverted students to participate in class discussions requires some additional strategies to help them feel comfortable and confident. 

Here’s how you can encourage their participation.

20. Build Trust.

Establish a trusting relationship with quiet students. Show genuine interest in their thoughts and opinions.

21. Pair and Share.

Implement the “think-pair-share” technique.

Have students think about a question individually, discuss it with a partner, and then share their partner’s thoughts with the class.

This eases them into speaking up.

22. Provide Advance Notice.

Give quiet students a heads-up about upcoming discussions or questions. This allows them to mentally prepare and feel more confident in participating.

23. Allow Written Responses.

Allow students to write down their thoughts before sharing verbally. This helps them organize their ideas and feel more in control.

24. Incorporate Non-Verbal Participation.

Recognize that participation doesn’t always have to be verbal. Allow students to nod, use hand signals, or contribute through written notes if they prefer.

25. Utilize Alternate Communication Methods.

Provide multiple ways for students to participate, such as through online discussion boards or chat features, which can be less intimidating than speaking in front of the class.

26. Help Set Small Goals.

Encourage quiet students to set achievable participation goals, like contributing once per class, and gradually increase as their comfort grows.

27. Use Visual Aids.

Incorporate visual aids like slides, images, or videos to help illustrate discussion points.

This can provide a starting point for quieter students to contribute.

28. Utilize Anonymous Contributions.

Implement anonymous methods of participation, such as using online discussion forums or anonymous feedback tools, which can help shy students feel more comfortable sharing their thoughts.

29. Plan Groups Strategically.

When assigning group activities, ensure that shy students are placed with supportive and understanding peers who can help create a comfortable environment.

Final Thoughts On How to Get Students to Participate 

Knowing how to get students to participate actively in class is an art and a skill.

Every class is unique, so it might take some trial and error to find the strategies that work best for your students.

Be patient, adaptive, supportive, and respectful. Eventually, class participation will grow.