We know that every student is different. Learning style, interests, academic ability, and attitude are just a few things we could put on a list of things that make one student different from his or her peers. Students also communicate and participate in different ways. Some children have no problem raising their hand and asking a question in front of the whole class. Others might write a quick note or ask their teacher a question after class. There will always be some students who don't ask questions at all because they are too timid, distracted, or need more time to process content and have questions after class has ended.
Here are a few tips for improving student and teacher communication in your classroom:
Have a system in place for students to ask questions. Rewarding participation points for in-class discussions can be a logistical challenge. You can require students to meet with you for check in meetings throughout the school year or semester to make sure they are in the right track. Build their attendance at these one-on-one or small group meetings into their participation grade. You can have them sign up using a service like Doodle to give them options that work within your own busy schedule. It might be useful for them to submit questions to you in advance so you have clear talking points for your time together. By asking them to develop questions beforehand they will come to your office with a clear purpose and leave knowing their next steps.
Whether it's how quickly you answer student emails/messages or when you decide to hold after school help or office hours, make sure students know how and when to reach you. Not only will they be out of excuses for their lack of communication but they will also have an understanding of what to do when they have a question. If students aren't sure of the right any to get in touch with you - an open door policy or set procedure - they might not try at all. You might have a forty eight hour email response policy or actively follow discussions in the online conversations in the forums you've set up. Maintaining this can be tough when unexpected events or distractions come your way. When you demonstrate this consistency for your own students you’ll be modelling the importance of building structure into their own routines.
Getting to know your students is easier said than done. Of course a smaller student group like 25 fifth graders in a classroom is simpler to reach than 600 freshman biology students in a college lecture hall. Initiating conversations with everyone or just some of your students can help them understand just how accessible and personable you are - or strive to be - especially in large group settings. Make it a goal to speak with a certain number of students before or after each class session. You can ask them about a particular task or project they are working on, engage them in a conversation about a particular topic, or even ask about their weekend.
Maintaining open lines of communication is essential for student success. There is so much you can do to ensure that students feel comfortable and ready to take advantage of your availability and expertise. You may find that each group of students that you work with responds better to certain tactics than others. Set clear expectations, be consistent throughout the school year, and start conversations with your students. All of these structures and routines can increase the amount of time and the effectiveness of the way you communicate with students.
Monica Burns is an Education Consultant, EdTech Blogger, and Apple Distinguished Educator. Visit her site ClassTechTips.com for more ideas on how to become a tech-savvy teacher.