back to school · classroom management · routines and procedures

Why I NEVER Call on Volunteers

Hi everyone! Today I’m going to share with you something so simple, yet LIFE CHANGING (at least for me)!

Years ago, I began my teaching career as an English Language Development teacher. I taught in a school where nearly 100% of the students were English Language Learners. I quickly learned how important it was for the students to TALK, TALK, TALK! This was something that I think is so true, not just for ELLS, but all students! Imagine if a teacher asks a question, and calls on ONE VOLUNTEER. There are many problems with this scenario…

  1. A student is only going to volunteer if they know or think they know the answer
  2. You are only having 1 student participate (that’s a small percentage of your class)
  3. The students that REALLY need to be TALKING are probably NOT the ones volunteering

I began the year trying to think of various ways to maximize student engagement. I tried many great practices (think-pair-share, etc.), but after attending a Kagan Cooperative Learning Workshop, I found (and tweaked) something that has worked incredibly for me (and other teachers I’ve helped).

HERE’S HOW IT WORKS:

-Students should already have an assigned partner. My students have a shoulder partner (sitting next to them at their desk), a face partner (sitting across from them at their desk), and a carpet partner (student sitting next to them on the carpet). These partnerships are strategically designed by me with a lot of thought put into them (a future blog post…) In these partnerships, there should be a Partner A and Partner B. You can get creative here…partners can be anything from “ketchup and mustard,” “cookies and milk,” etc. The most important thing is that the students know who is who!

-After raising a question to the class, rather than ask for volunteers (ahhhh please don’t), tell them it’s time for “Partner A” (or whatever you call that person) to talk. Give them a designated time depending on the question. During this time, Partner A is the ONLY partner talking. Partner B is SILENT! (THIS IS SOMETHING THAT NEEDS TO BE MODELED, TAUGHT, AND PRACTICED, PRACTICED, PRACTICED). In the beginning, you will notice many students say a few words and then sit in awkward silence for the remainder of the time. This will get better with time and more practice.

-After the designated time is up, tell them it’s time for Partner B to talk. Repeat what happened when Partner A talked, just with Partner B now.

THAT’S IT! SIMPLE!

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This small little strategy will literally change your life. After you raise a question, instead of one volunteer participating, you will have 100% of your students that were engaged and talking! WOW! Think of all the practice your students will be getting with talking! Think of how much more talking your ELL students will be doing! It’s awesome!

-Mrs. B

 

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