Turning Everyday Answers, Questions, and Discussions into Confidence-Building Opportunities
So you've taken the first steps in developing a Confidence-Centered Curriculum, and you're interested in applying some of the methods into your classroom. However, you're a little nervous because you are not a Drama teacher, and your classroom is not a "performance" class. Well, have no fear! Public-speaking skills can be emphasized in every classroom, no matter the subject. Here are several practical action steps every teacher can take in their classroom to intentionally build their students' confidence.
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Random, Really Isn’t All That Random
Don’t call on the students with their hands up…they think they know the answer. Call on the students not raising their hands, who are avoiding eye contact in hopes they won’t be noticed. Call on students in a pattern, then without warning, break the pattern. Call on the know-it-all when you know he doesn’t know it. Call on the quiet student when you know she does know it. Have everyone write down the answer, switch papers, then share the answers as if it were their own. Keeping students guessing on who is going to be called on next keeps them engaged and helps build public-speaking skills for all students, not just the ones with their hands up.
I get it…you are trying to be nice. You don’t want to traumatize the poor children by “making” them speak in front of the class. You go around the classroom, but if a student doesn’t feel comfortable contributing you allow them to “pass.” I challenge you to ask yourself what you are letting them “pass” out of. They are passing on the chance to share their thoughts. They are passing on the opportunity to get the right answer. They are passing on the opportunity to have their voice heard. They are passing on the chance to be a contributing part of the class. By letting no one pass, you require everyone to be an active member of your classroom. When everyone is expected to participate...everyone participates!
“I Don’t Know” – That’s OK, But Still Expect an Answer
This might be my students’ least favorite technique that I use, and I love it. I ask a question and randomly call on a student, who responds with “I don’t know.” However, that response is not allowed in my class, so a reply with, “That’s OK, but I still need an answer.” Right or wrong, everyone has an answer. If it’s right…way to go! If it is wrong…let’s figure out where the learning went in a different direction. Making the students offer an answer, no matter what, has two big benefits. One, students pay attention a lot closer because they don’t want to give the wrong answer when called on. Two, it shows the students that giving the wrong answer isn’t the end of the world. I don’t like silly answers, but a reasonable answer that is the student’s best guess is great and allows me to address a misunderstanding that others may have, as well.
My Eyes Are Up Here
Eye contact is essential! It is through the eyes that people connect with others. Whether coming in and shaking my hand at the start of class or sharing their thoughts in a class discussion, eyes need to be up, and the students need to be looking at the people that they are addressing. If eyes are down, students are asked to repeat what they said while making eye contact. Often, the second time I will have them speak directly to me, instead of addressing the entire class. The chance to have one person to look at often comforts those students who are nervous to speak in front of the entire class.
Ummms, And Likes, Yeahs, and Stuff
Ahhhhhh…think before you speak. And like say what like only needs to be said. Ummm…and like when you’ve like share your thoughts, ummmmm, like stop talking…and stuff!
Perhaps it’s funny when written out, but nothing, and I mean, nothing drives me crazier than “filler” words and sounds. I tell my students that when called on, they should take a deep breath and gather their thoughts. They should start by stating the question, then answer the questions. Question: Who was the first president of the United States? Answer: The first president of the United States was George Washington. This gives clarity to the start of their answer. I have found when students start their answers strong; the answers are spoken with more confidence.
Take a Stand for Confidence!
OK, so not every classroom has time to perform. Perhaps, there is some truth to that. However, every classroom has time to build public-speaking skills. When asked a question, I require my students to stand to offer their answer. This expectation takes no more time away from my class than having the students remain seated. By standing, the students can address the whole class. I have found that over time, my students speak with more authority when they are standing, than when they are seated.