What to Do When Some Students Dominate Classroom Discussions


Have you found that several students are dominating your classroom discussions to the extent that it's becoming a problem? This blog post provides the solutions you need.

Students & Classroom Discussions

We've all noticed it: some students just like to do all of the talking in the classroom. Whether it's the class clown who thrives off of the attention of his peers or the high-achieving student who wants to get the best participation grade possible, there tends to be one, two, or a handful of students who talk the most during any classroom discussion. While this doesn't necessarily have to be a problem, it can become a larger issue when the shyer, more introverted students in the class never have a chance to say a word. Here's how we recommend handling this issue.

A student dominates a class discussion

Use Turn-Taking Strategies

A classic classroom discussion staple, the talking stick is a convenient solution when one student constantly jumps in with his or her opinion. You can have a little fun with this approach by choosing another object, like a teddy bear or a Koosh ball, as your ''talking stick.'' The idea behind this method is that only one person can talk at a time: the person with the bear or the ball. This limits interruptions by physically promoting the concept of listening to others and giving them their full turn to speak.

Another common classroom discussion strategy is the ''popcorn'' method, whereby one student talks and then chooses the next student to speak. A fresh update on this method is to let your class work together to choose their own code word, like ''squiggles'' or ''zoodler,'' that they'll have fun with and respect. This approach is an effective way to avoid having one student dominate the conversation because it sidesteps the scenario where the teacher asks a question and the class responds with absolute silence until the same two or three people feel like they must speak in order to end the awkward silence. It also reinforces the idea of passing the conversation from person to person, reminding the class that the goal is for everybody to speak.

Use a Timer

Let's be honest: we all lose track of time. Sometimes, you start a class discussion, blink, realize half an hour has passed and that one student has been monologuing the entire time. To avoid this situation, use a timer to make sure that no student exceeds a certain length of time of your choosing during their contribution to the class discussion. Like the talking stick, this approach makes it impossible for students to take it personally when you say, ''Time's up! Somebody else's turn to talk.''

High school students have a discussion

Call on Students Yourself

This solution is simple and obvious, but effective. If your classroom conversations are so one-sided that it's truly problematic, just call on students to speak yourself, instead of allowing them to self-select. Open your discussion with a question and then direct that question to a specific student, ideally one who usually doesn't talk as often. This way, you'll have full control over who's participating in the class discussions; just don't forget to call on the more dominant students every once in a while, too.

Students raise their hands to speak during a class discussion

Talk to Your More Talkative Students

Finally, remember that it can't hurt to simply speak to your more extroverted students, especially if they're being overly gregarious in their desire to be heard. Let them know that you're impressed with their level of participation but that you're also a little worried that other students aren't getting as much of a chance to share their opinions. This option allows your students to practice responsibility and self-regulation. We recommend it most for older students, like juniors and seniors in high school, who are more emotionally mature and the least likely to be offended.

For ideas about engaging classroom discussion questions, check out this resource on Study.com.

By Daisy Rogozinsky
March 2019
teachers teacher tips

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