In the primary grades, I tend to see 1-2 students in a classroom who are oversharers and dominate the class conversation while other students fight to be noticed. In the primary grades, some children have not yet learned how to limit their speaking time. Other students may be less confident and therefore afraid to speak up, while some students are comfortable letting others take the lead.
You can see many of these same behaviors in upper-grade classes but, the upper-grade students begin to turn their cameras off, leave a screensaver on and either walk away, play on their phones, or watch Youtube videos simultaneously. Not all of the upper-grade students do this, but unfortunately, many of them do. I spend many hours staring at about eight real faces, twenty-five blank screens, and occasional responses popping up in the chat. I have been grappling with how to alter this dynamic.
I begin by posing a problem or problems. I give the students an adequate amount of time to solve at least one problem independently. Students hold up their work to the screen to show me their complete work or work in progress. I give them a thumbs up or send them a message in the chat. Once most of the students who are actively participating are done with at least one problem, I begin assigning them roles- sharer, analyzer, complimenters. I might say-
- “Zoe, you will be sharing your work today. Make sure it is neat and easily understandable to others.”
- “Jack, you will be analyzing Zoe’s work and describing what you see. See if you can figure out why she did what they did.”
- “Jamie and Marcus, you will be complimenting Zoe or Jack by saying something you appreciate about what they did or said.”
Within a one-hour lesson, we can usually go through this process 3 – 4 times, meaning 12-16 students actively participate every day. *Administrators and coaches this process has also been effective during professional development workshops.