The dreaded participation grade…as a mom of an introvert, I tend to get a little fired up when I see this. News Flash! Participation is more than talking or answering a question.

Participation is also:


Collaborating with classmates

Taking notes

Discussing classwork with a peer

Asking the teacher a question after class

Non-verbal gestures like eye contact and nodding

Presenting in class

It’s important to cultivate a classroom where kids feel comfortable to share ideas and speak up. An introverted kid will talk in class…and when they do, it will be with purpose and significant to the discussion.

As a teacher, when I had to score participation in group work, I looked less at the chatter and more at the student behavior and actions.

Was the child:

A good listener?

Respectful to their peers?


Collaborating and sharing within their comfort zone?

During independent work time, I would go around and speak with the quieter kids and discuss the concepts of the day. With class discussions, I looked for student engagement through eye contact, posture, facial expressions and overall body language. I waited for the introverted students to share.

As someone who is an outgoing introvert (ambivert), I have always been my daughter’s champion, advocating for her learning style and letting teachers know her quietness is not a lack of engagement. She is thinking, processing and waiting for the right moment to share.

For those of you with an introverted child, I highly recommend Susan Cain’s book Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts

She also has a great Ted Talk.

On her website, she has a series blogs discussing the notion of participation in the classroom, what this looks likes and how teachers can assess the concept.

In the post Class Participation Penalizes Introverts, Emily J. Klein and Meg Riordan state, “The traditional approach to including participation into one letter or number grade also reinforces classroom participation that supports superficial conversation—talking for the sake of “earning points.” It penalizes the quiet, introverted student, who might be listening and creating space for thinking and reflection. When we grade learning separately from participating, we offer teachers the opportunity to create a classroom structure where listening is as valuable as speaking and where the meaning of a grade becomes clear to students, teachers, and families.”

I am not completely against the participation grade, but it must be defined, meaningful and attainable for all learners.

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