Guaranteed Active Whole-Class Discussions (2nd  Technique: Volunteering to Answer)

Volunteer answer

(This posting includes an attached teacher’s script which you are welcome to use.)

As mentioned in the previous posting “1st Technique: Responding to others,” Guaranteed Active Whole-Class Discussions (First Technique: Responding to Others)  whole-class discussions can be an alien concept to some students.   This is the second technique.

International students in Western-style classes often feel ignored during whole-class discussions if the instructor doesn’t directly call on them.  In some of the classes, instructors expect students to freely offer their comments or ask question.  Also, some hesitate to call on International students because they think those students might feel uncomfortable speaking to the whole class.

This technique, Volunteering an Answer, is very effective in helping even passive students involved in whole-class discussion, and in the process, impressing their instructors.

To help you students become comfortable with this technique, you can use the attached script, which I’ll explain about below.  (Notice: for this technique, there is no handout for the student, just a teacher’s script.) Script Whole class Technique 2 Volunteering to answer

In Exercise 1, to practice the technique in a non-threatening situation, the teacher reads 10 general-topic questions, for example:

  • What time did you get up this morning?
  • What is your favorite Website?
  • What were you doing last year at this time?

These are easy-to-answer questions, so students won’t feel reluctant to answer.

For the first few questions, you may have students raise their hands to volunteer to answer.  Then for the other questions, you could have more free-form in which they just offer their answer without raising their hands.

Building on Technique 1 (Responding to another student’s comment), you could encourage students to volunteer to do this too.

In Exercise 2, you apply this technique to a whole-class discussion about an article that the students have read.  In this attachment, you will notice the questions are about the second unit in   Cultural Differences.  However, these can easily be changed to discuss a different reading passage.  If you’d like to see more about integrating a reading passage into a discussion about culture, see Best Subject for an ESL Integrated-Skills Class (Part 1 Overview)  and  Best Subject for an ESL Integrated-Skills Class (Parts 3 & 4: Discussion and Writing aspects)

One of the greatest benefits of this technique is that discussions become much more student-centered.  The teacher asks a question, and students “take over.”

The next posting will be about the next technique: Redirecting a question when you don’t know what to say.

David Kehe

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