Participation & Engagement Strategies

Key goals of effective participation & engagement strategies:

1. Equity of voice: All students are engaged in a range of participation types that cater to different discourse styles, cultural forms, and ways of thinking

2. Engagement: All students are thinking and responding to the topics

3. Checking for understanding: Teacher gets information about all students thinking and comprehension

4. Classroom environment: The routines of the classroom draw students into the desired interactions (as opposed to emphasizing stopping undesirable interactions)

Key considerations for all strategies:

A. Routines for participation strategies must be explicitly taught and practiced to be most effective

B. Wait time is essential, students should never shout out answers until they are told the response strategy

C. Teachers should ask the question first, and then deploy the participation strategy

D. Questions should vary on the “Blooms” scale

Some Common Strategies:

Equity sticks: Teacher asks a question, pauses, and then pulls a students name. After that student response, the teacher removes their name from the pile. This introduces randomness, reduces teacher bias, and gives every student the feeling that they could be called on.

Raise hand/Wait time (Student Volunteer): Students raise a hand, teacher gives time for the first and second wave of hands to go up (and may prompt a third wave) before calling on somebody. This activity gives slower processors and opportunity to engage.

Elbow partner/Think pair share: Elbow partner – students engage with a partner around the question. Think Pair Share – students have a moment of think time, discuss with a partner, and then share with another pair or the class. Teacher can require the sharer to include the partner’s point of view to encourage active listening. This activity provides everyone with some talk time.

Give one get one: After thinking or journaling about a topic, students get up and find someone across the room with whom to share their thoughts or answers. Students receive an idea in exchange for giving one. This activity gives students choice and provides an opportunity for movement.

Shout out: Students softly shout out responses in unison. The teacher can record shout-outs on the board, if appropriate. Questions can require either one correct answer or a variety of answers. This activity actively engages students and validates and affirms culturally different forms of discourse.

Numbered heads together: The teacher puts students in groups of four to six, numbering each student within each group. When asked a question, students work together in their groups to find the best answer. When called together again, the teacher rolls a die and asks the students from all groups whose number was rolled to stand. Each student then reports his or her group’s answer. This activity helps to form a consensus and encourage accountability.

Cold Call (Teacher Nomination): The teacher calls on a student without soliciting hands raised. Cold calls work best when coupled with wait time: Teacher asks a questions, gives students a moment to think, then cold calls a student.

And the list goes on (and on, and on). Some more examples:

See also "Kagan Cooperative Learning Structures for Engagement" attached below.


Kagan, M., & Kagan, S. (2009). Kagan cooperative learning. San Clemente, CA: Kagan Publishing.

Lemov, Doug (2015). Teach Like a Champion 2.0: 62 Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College. Wiley.

Muhammad, A. & Sharroky, H. (2012). The will to lead, the skill to teach: Transforming schools at every level. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press