Participating in class is a common struggle that students face. Some jump out of their seats to answer a question or share ideas, while others prefer to listen rather than insert themselves into a discussion. Virtual learning has brought new challenges to the forefront, with the added difficulties of getting a teacher’s attention, navigating the mute and unmute button, and being “spotlighted” when called on.
If your child is struggling with participating in virtual classes and needs some strategies for speaking up, try out these activities!
- Have “school conversations” often. To help your child become more comfortable speaking up in class, have frequent conversations with them that they might have in school. For example, ask them to explain one new thing they learned after a virtual class or review their homework with them out loud. Giving them opportunities to speak like they do in school will help your child gain confidence.
- Create a goal with your child at the beginning of the week or each morning. The goal could range from “Raise your hand one time in each class” to “Answer two questions today.” Talk with your child and decide together what goal would be challenging, but still be achievable. Remember to change the goals as they make progress and to celebrate their accomplishments!
- Read out loud together! Have your child choose a favorite book (one with a lot of dialogue is best!) and take turns reading out loud. Encourage your child to change their voice when reading for different characters, raise their volume when saying something exciting or surprising, and change their tone. The sillier, the better! By taking risks with their voice in a comfortable environment, they will gain confidence in both reading and speaking in class.
For children who are eager to share ideas, answer questions, and participate in class, try these activities to support your child in sharing the classroom space and being articulate and thoughtful in their responses.
- Encourage your child to write down their thoughts before they answer a teacher’s question or participate in discussion. Writing down a few bullet points or even just two or three key words will help them be more focused in their answer. The classic phrase “think before you speak” works not only with kindness, but articulation as well.
- Think of a short phrase your child can use if they find themselves interrupting. For example, a VSA teacher tells her students to “breathe the thought back in” when they start to interrupt. They know to take a deep breath and wait until it is time to share. The teacher doesn’t want them to think their thoughts are undervalued, so she encourages them to write it down on a Post-It. Therefore, they don’t forget and can share with the class when there is time to truly listen and focus on them. Create a phrase together, hang it in their virtual learning area, and make sure to always have Post-Its near them to capture their valuable thoughts.
- Create a list with your child of a few sentence starters they can use when participating in class. If your child is waiting to share something to the class, they are most likely thinking about what they want to say rather than listening to their classmates. Sentence starters will support them in listening and responding to classmates before sharing their own thoughts. “I agree with you because…” and “What you said reminds me of…” are good places to start.
As you and your child work to improve their participation in virtual classes, remember that the saying is “practice makes progress,” not “practice makes perfect!”