Speaking Up, or Not…

Have you ever had butterflies in your stomach while giving a speech in front of class? How about sweaty palms and a racing heart when being called on to answer a question?  These are some of the symptoms of anxiety. Nothing is more frustrating and nerve- racking than talking during class,especially when what comes out of your mouth is for a grade.class wide

It is common for teachers to give students class participation grades for simply talking. These are usually done by answering a question or talking during a discussion. Participation in class shows that the students are attentive to the subject being taught and are showing that they are learning the material. But how is it fair to those handful of students who don’t feel comfortable talking in front of the class?

Those who suffer from social anxiety or those who are simply uncomfortable talking in front of crowds feel as if they’re giving the impression that they’re unintelligent or aren’’t working as hard as everyone else. It’s not that they don’t understand the information being taught, it’s just that they feel overwhelmed by thinking on their feet.

Why should they be graded on talking during class discussions? Shouldn’t there be alternatives that are fair and friendly to all students?

“One alternative for grading participation is if the teacher gave the students a sheet that we can write our opinions down when we’re having a discussion,” said Princeton High School (PHS) senior, Payton Gentry.

This method of grading participation without talking is good for all students because it still touches on what the teacher wants to see. The student is still allowed to show that they know the material and that they’re being graded on the quality of their work. Giving students the questions that are going to be asked will also improve participation for those who don’t think on their feet, because it allows them to formulate and prepare what they are going to say.

“To get class participation[teachers]can do a group project so it’s more than one person speaking,” said Princeton senior Aleah Andrews. “You should also be able to schedule a time where you can talk with the teacher after school so that it’s a one-on-one thing.”

Having individual time with the teacher alleviates some of the stress for the student. During this situation they are able to still show the teacher that they are learning the material but are able to take their time, free from the judgment of their peers. Although this method may be inconvenient for both the student and the teacher, it is a very good way for the teacher to get to know the student on a personal level .

PHS social studies teacher, Amanda Setters, shares some alternatives for class participation,  “Emailing the teacher, creating a video or PowerPoint, preparing something for the class, or posting to a class Facebook page [are other options].”miles class

All of these alternatives are great examples of engaging the students in the  class while still being able to assess the student’s participation in some way.

Even though it might be hard for some students to talk in class, it is an essential skill they need  to develop in order to be prepared for life after PHS.

“Part of what we do is prepare young people to be functional in society,” said Setters. “We have to encourage people to speak up and use their voice. Although we all teach content, most importantly, we are helping students learn life skills that will help them be successful in any career. You have to know how to speak to what you know.”

In the end, student participation in class is a must. Class participation is essential to developing communication skills and giving students the right tools to be successful in their future. Many classes require students to talk in class in order to receive participation, but there are many alternatives that teachers are using to better cater to their students’ needs.


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