Curriculum Q & A Blog, Question 15
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Question: Is it okay to branch out to find new and different total participation techniques when I’m teaching the curriculum?
The short answer is, yes, of course!
The main purpose of total participation techniques is to break the paradigm of teachers asking questions and then calling only on students with their hands raised. We want to move away from that paradigm because each time that scene unfolds, a room full of students go unheard from. Their good ideas, along with their questions and confusions, remain unknown.
- Total participation techniques demand accountability and attention from all students because anyone can be selected to offer their ideas at any time.
- Especially when a positive classroom culture has been established, students who otherwise may have remained quiet have the chance to share ideas with a peer, small group, or the whole class.
- Total participation techniques establish a sense of fairness for students: Rather than the “smart kids” or the “struggling kids” always being prioritized to be called on, all students have the same chance, voice, and expectation of active engagement.
As long as you are upholding the purpose of total participation techniques, we encourage you to find new and different ones to keep things fresh for you and your students.
“With total participation techniques, I really try to have them in my back pocket, like a handful that I know I can pull out at any time. That way when I get to a question that I know I’m going to ask, I can gauge the room. Do they need to move?”K–1 teacher, Denver
The total participation techniques used in our curriculum were chosen to engage all students—not just your “frequent fliers”—in responding to questions and prompts. They come primarily from the book Total Participation Techniques: Making Every Student an Active Learner (2011) by Persida Himmele and William Himmele. You may use techniques from the curriculum or develop your own. A quick internet search will yield many more good ideas for total participation techniques—there are myriad Pinterest boards, blogs, and websites where teachers have gathered their favorites. Though we have recommended techniques in the curriculum, we encourage you to experiment with what works best for you and your students. What’s most important is that you find ways to actively engage all of your students.
The table that follows, which is from our book, Your Curriculum Companion, describes just a few of the total participation techniques you will find in the curriculum.
For more general information about our curriculum, check out our website or our book Your Curriculum Companion: The Essential Guide to Teaching the EL Education K–5 Language Arts Curriculum. If you have questions related to this blog, please email us at: ELcurriculumblog@eleducation.org.