Best Practice

Helping quiet pupils to find their voices

In each class, half a dozen children dominate and half a dozen are rarely heard. Jason Buckley advises on how we can help the ‘silent six’ to find their voices

Imagine you’re at a major conference. A speaker fails to show up. You find yourself being ushered towards the stage to deliver their talk, on a subject you know very little about.

For most people, the fear of looking a fool in front of a large audience is the stuff of nightmares. For some children, that fear extends to answering simple questions about things they know well, and their own class of 30 counts as a large audience. How can the classroom be less intimidating so that these children speak up?

A first step is to clarify the factors that make speaking intimidating. One is “stretch”. Do I know what I’m talking about? Can I be sure I’ve got the right answer? Will the words come out right? Stretch is about how difficult it will be to succeed.

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