Oral Participation

A wise man speaks because he has something to say, a fool speaks because he has to say something.”  – Plato.

Student oral participation in the classroom is often underused and undervalued in secondary schools.  I am using the term “student participation” to include all forms of oral student contribution to learning during lessons.  This ranges from voluntary information and responses to questions asked by the teacher, to formal individual and group oral presentations, role-playing, debates and discussions.  Oral participation by students is a great learning and assessment tool and I would recommend that more teachers add it to their assessment methods every term.  It can be used in any subject area.

Some students naturally ask a lot of questions and give useful information to the class.  They should be rewarded for this and teachers need to encourage more students to do so by calling on the more silent ones to answer questions or explain appropriate elements of the classwork or homework to their classmates.  Over the term everyone can be assessed for oral participation.

For more formal oral presentations, the teacher chooses the topics and students can use the chalkboard and any other helpful media they can find.  Time limits are given for the presentations so that all individuals and groups can be accommodated over a reasonable period of time.

While any individual student or group is doing an oral presentation, the teacher and the other students are free to ask questions at any time, make comments or challenge points the presenters make.  The teacher can supply any important points omitted by the presenters or correct mistakes at the end of the session.  The other students can take notes and a test can be given after the teacher deems that everyone has met the relevant learning goals.  Of course, students are given marks or grades for their presentations.

Students generally enjoy oral participation in class and it enhances learning and critical thinking.  They get immediate feedback from classmates and teachers.  They have to learn the material thoroughly in order to explain it and this improves their metacognitive skills.  Being questioned or challenged forces them to think quickly.  Everyone ends up with new knowledge and skills and this is a welcome break from teacher-centred lessons.  Oral presenters also improve their communication skills and self-confidence.

Some teachers may find oral participation and presentation in the classroom somewhat time consuming and noise levels may increase at times.  However, the advantages definitely outweigh these disadvantages.  In addition, good public speaking skills are valuable.  Interested readers can also peruse “Benefits of Student Verbal Presentations To the Classby Gilda Haber.


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