Providing clear expectations for online participation is one piece of the puzzle; designing instruction that encourages participation is another.
The proper balance of synchronous and asynchronous learning will be important. Particularly with younger students, a greater percentage of whole group and small group synchronous learning time may support participation.
Various features of video conferencing and other digital platforms are designed to encourage participation. The polling feature of video conferencing platforms is one way to ensure that all students weigh in. Assign a poll to ignite thinking on a topic or to encourage metacognition or goal setting. Online whiteboards can encourage participation by inviting participants to express ideas in the ways that work best for them—writing, drawing, or adding annotations. The Chat feature can also engage students in sharing ideas—and students can then unmute and share aloud.
During read alouds, avoid the temptation to incorporate round robin reading, which research has shown to be ineffective. Instead, break text into shorter sections for silent reading (or teacher read aloud), followed by purposeful questioning with text-dependent questions (TDQs).
The use of cameras (following district guidelines) can help build a sense of community, and closing any slide presentation or visual aid will arrange for students to see more of their classmates during discussion.
Some in-person approaches are equally effective online. Assigning students to moderate online discussions can encourage online learner participation.
Having students write a sentence in response to a prompt before they share their ideas aloud with the whole group can help them organize their learning and prepare to speak. Similarly, providing discussion questions in advance can help students prepare to speak. The Wit & Wisdom Content Stages support participation as well. Opening discussions of new texts with noticing and wondering encourages students to participate without fear of getting the answer wrong.
Finally, engage students in assessing their own participation and elicit their ideas for encouraging participation. They may have important ideas to share about what motivates them to participate—and what holds them back.