One of the most common frustrations of U:PASS leaders is “I can’t get my students to talk to each other!”
Here’s some tips that I share:
1. Room arrangement is crucial. If the students are sitting in rows, facing the front, then it’s very hard for them to talk to each other and collaborate. At the minimum, get them to move and sit next to each other – ideally in grouped tables facing each other
2. Structure your class so that talking is not just optional but necessary. This can be via group work or pair work, such as: brainstorming, multiple choice competitions, breaking into teams, or allocating specific exercises to different groups. If you just give students a worksheet, they will work on it individually. You need to actively design your class so that they HAVE to talk.
3. Know that talking in front of people is scary. There’s a reason a lot of students stay quiet. And sometimes that reason is that they have no idea! But sometimes it’s because they’re scared to speak – scared to look foolish or stupid in front of others, scared to show they don’t understand something. Two things help: your own humanity and how you manage it. Be yourself – be kind, compassionate, genuine. Explain that you get stuff wrong sometimes. Be human in the classroom. Be relatable. The second thing: get them to share their ideas with each other before they speak up – or ask them to tell you privately. That way the risk of looking stupid is reduced and shared – after all, if you both think that’s the answer, and you’re both wrong, well, that’s less intimidating!