Participating in classroom discussions is helpful to both you and other students in a variety of ways. It shows the teacher that you are interested in the material and that you are excited to join in the discussion on the topic. Participating is also a way to review, question, analyze, and interpret the information, which will lead to a greater understanding of the material. Taking part in classroom dialogue and activities will help you to stay focused and to tune out background distractions. Finally, by lending new ideas and questions to the discussion, you can help other students look at the topic from a new angle, which contributes to everyone’s learning. If you are hesitant to speak up in class, here are a few suggestions on how to join in on classroom conversation.
The first step to participating in classroom dialogue is actually to listen, not to talk. Listening to what the professor and your fellow students are saying and questioning will help you form your own ideas, opinions, and questions. As you are reading the text and listening to the discussion, write down different points you want to question, discuss in further detail, or that you disagree with and which you want to share your opinion. These notes will help you remember what you want to say, and they will help you focus your thoughts so you do not go off on a tangent.
When you are ready to speak, make sure that you follow classroom procedures in taking your turn. Begin by summarizing the text, question, or discussion which you want to further discuss to help focus others in the class to the topic. This is also shows that you are trying to understand the text or the points being made, and it shows exactly where you are in that understanding. However, make sure there is a clear distinction is your language and speech patterns when you are summarizing someone else’s thoughts or opinions and when you are giving your own. This helps the professor recognize the contributions you are making to the discussion.
As you are talking, make sure you are speaking in a loud and clear voice so that everyone in the room can hear you and understand you. Do not hesitate to refer to your notes, but try to make eye contact with the professor and the other students. Do not rush through your point, but try to reach the heart of your argument in a reasonable amount of time so that others do not get lost in what you are trying to say. Using your own examples can help support and give merit to your opinion. Also, make sure that you do not disrespect the thoughts and opinions of others while you are speaking. It is always okay to disagree with other students and even with the professor if you can back up your statements with facts and examples, but it is never okay to be disrespectful.
When you are finished speaking, give others a chance to respond. This will help you determine whether or not the students and the instructor understand the points you are trying to make. Remember that not everyone will agree with you, but be open to hear others’ opinions and try to understand where others are coming from.