Using Personal Stories to Engage Students in Conversation

Engaging students in class conversation is not always an easy task. Even though we may make class participation part of their final grade, stress its importance in the syllabus, and give subtle (and not so subtle) reminders of this throughout the semester, there are always days when students simply do not want to participate in the class discussions.
There are many reasons why students might not participate in class. Here are four situations where students remain silent, and strategies to positively engage them in conversation.
1) Students do not participate because it is Monday. As strange as it may sound, it’s been my experience that Monday classes tend to be the hardest in terms of getting students talking. The mood is different—and the next weekend seems a long way off. A way to turn this situation around is by looking at Mondays in a positive way. I try to be extra enthusiastic and engaging, so students see a positive person in the classroom on a Monday. Perhaps they’ll find the positive energy contagious. I also seat my students in a semicircle, so they can all see each other’s faces. This class configuration fosters ease of communication.
2) Students have not prepared for the class discussion. When this occurs, consider giving students 10-15 minutes to review what they should have prepared at home, and then seat them in groups where they can practice the conversation with classmates. Despite giving them this second chance at learning, you can let them …