Helping Quieter Students

If you are a more talkative Harkness student, or even a Harkness warrior, you can help quieter students get into the conversation.

1. Self monitor. Be aware of how much you are talking, how much others are or aren’t talking, and make sure you are not taking up more than your share of the air time. Look around the table before you speak, to see if there are others trying to get in.

2. Allow silences if you’ve talked a lot. There are some students who need a bit of a pause before they will jump in.

3. Don’t call on a student who has been quiet or “put them on the spot.”

4. Notice when other students' facial expression or body language indicates that they seem to have something to say but may be reluctant, and invite them in with “were you trying to say something?” or maybe just an encouraging glance, or at the very least by holding back from making your own comment in that moment.

5. Use names. "Calling someone by name -- recognizing an idea they had from a previous class or a few minutes ago -- affirms their presence. This can be really helpful as a way for involving quieter students after small group work -- if students can acknowledge great ideas that emerged and give credit to others. I ask them to put their names with questions on the board when we begin class like that so they can refer to one another's questions using names. Students who are most aware of the layers in this strategy are able to draw quieter students in this way."*

6. Always yield to quieter students. If you are about to add your fourth comment of the day, and a quieter student tries to speak at the same time, always yield. Of course this requires you to self monitor (see #1).

7. Be an encouraging partner. When the teacher begins a class with students working in small groups, this is often done to warm up the quiet kids. So when it’s time to present to the class, let your quieter partner be the one to present your findings.

8. Be selective about introducing information from outside of the readings. This can be intimating to students who to not have access to the same information. The discussion should be based mostly on information all the participants have access to.

To the quieter students, see my suggestions for "Finding Your Voice."

*Quoted: Patty Burke Hickey