total participation techniques

Using Total Participation Techniques in the Classroom

By Rachel J. Sawyers, Third Grade Teacher California Elementary School

Hands On, Mind On

We’ve all had those students who raise their hand to answer every question. Then you have the students who scrunch down in their seats, hoping you never call of them. With these two extremes, how do you make sure all students are learning? This is where Hands On, Minds On learning comes in handy.

Tell me, I forget. Show me, I remember. Involve me, I understand.~ Ancient Chinese Proverb

As a teacher, I want my students to benefit from learning strategies that will maximize their learning potential. The more they are participating, the more learning is occurring. I have found that using Total Participation Techniques have fueled all my students to take a more active role in their learning.

What are Total Participation Techniques?

Presida and William Himmele state, “A Total Participation Technique is a teaching technique that allows a teacher to get evidence of active participation and cognitive engagement from all students at the same time.

In my classroom, my students participate in a variety of activities that they can all participate in. When we review vocabulary, the students receive a set of cards with the words we are learning. Then I place the definitions on the Promethean Board. Students take time to read the meaning, when they are ready they hold up the word that matches the definition. Since instituting this strategy, my students vocabulary scores have improved from an average of B’s and C’s to almost all A’s.

Another activity I use in my third grade classroom is sorts. For example, when learning about common and proper nouns, I will give students a set of cards with nouns written on them. In partnerships, the students will sort the cards into the two different categories. When they are finished sorting, they will write the words on a handout.

These techniques are important because they let you take advantage of the amount of learning that all students are involved instead of just three or four students. This works well for your learning support and ELL students.

Benefits of Total Participation Techniques

Total Participation Techniques are low budget and low maintenance.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money for these learning activities. Many of the things I have made, can be reused year after year. Hold-ups are easy to make and use in the classroom. These include multiple choice cards and true/false cards. To save on wear and tear, I laminate the cards.

Total Participation Techniques engage students.

It gets all your students participating class. Your students won’t have time to tune out the lesson because they will be focused on the learning task.

It provides teachers with immediate feedback.

Many of the strategies used provide teachers with on the spot evidence about which students understand and which ones don’t. You can adjust your method or clarify concepts based on student responses.

These techniques provide students with opportunities to build a classroom community.

At times students are working in partnerships and small groups. They are building a rapport with one another, which helps them to become friends. Students learning to be respectful of one another’s ideas.

The techniques help ensure equity in participation.

One or two students are not monopolizing the lesson. This also gets your reluctant learners involved in the lesson. Students feel successful because they can be part of the lesson.

Examples of Total Participation Techniques

  • Hold-ups
  • Think-Pair-Share
  • Think -Solve -Pair-Share
  • Quick Writes
  • Categorizing and Sorting

There is no need to feel overwhelmed when it comes to total participation techniques. Start off with just a few strategies. Then you can build up your repertoire little by little. You will start to see a difference in your students with these techniques.

Want more teaching strategies for classroom innovation? Sign up for an upcoming webinar or explore our teacher-centric blogs.

Rachel has been a teacher in the California Area School District in Coal Center, PA for 16 years. She has a Bachelor of Arts in elementary and special education from Carlow College in Pittsburgh, PA. Rachel’s teaching career has spanned grades kindergarten through high school in both regular and special education. In her spare time, she teaches dance to the students in her community.

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