The Simple Way to Increase Participation in Preschool

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” Ben Franklin, as always, dropping wisdom. And as I’ve found, listening to actual philosophers usually affords the best teaching philosophy.  In this case, it’s spot-on. But how do you get kids involved in a preschool discussion every single day?

Stop asking students to raise their hands!

Find out how you can make this work in your classroom.

When I called on students individually, the class could never keep their focus for very long.  Students’ attention spans would slowly fade as they waited for each of their classmates to work through an answer. By the time you’ve called on all twenty students, most of them have tuned out. Not to mention, this slow process zaps the energy and excitement that you built with the hook of your lesson. It’s no wonder Einstein said, “It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.”

I know what you must be thinking. “No hand raising? It still sounds hectic and wild and like a crazy classroom!”  Well, maybe… but that’s what excited, involved participation looks like! The classroom is electric! I am willing to deal with a louder, more excited classroom if it also means this kind of excitement. By removing the barriers to participation and encouraging students to join in on the fun, carpet time will become the greatest part of the day! Instead of calling on every student, come to the carpet and ask every student to call out! Watch as participation, engagement, and the energy in your classroom jump to new levels you never thought possible!

Instead of calling on every student, come to the carpet and ask every student to call out! Click To Tweet

If my students had an idea to share, I wanted to hear it!  Each morning I would ask an open-ended question, then we would open up the floor to a free-for-all of rapid fire responses. During this extreme brainstorm, it felt you like you were actually in a hurricane or tornado of answers!  Before you know it, kids will be throwing answers at you faster than you can handle! To get a better feel for these open-ended questions listen to Episode 008: How to Teach Critical Thinking in Preschool. You can also purchase our weekly lesson plans that include everything you’ll need to help your students make high-level connections and participate at the most in-depth levels.

Now this may still sound a little chaotic, after all I just said kids will be “throwing” answers at you and it will feel like a “hurricane or tornado.”  Even if that’s the case, this podcast episode is your lifeboat in the storm (the brainstorm, that is).

I’ll always be straight-up with y’all. I had concerns when I started this style too. Thankfully, in spite of my worries, students began to adapt to the free-for-all environment and their personalities boomed! And I’ll admit it — I was a bit surprised!   The first surprise had to do with our class ended up developing an extremely strong culture of respect. By shouting out answers and having students talk over one another, you would think that would send the wrong message about respecting the ideas and sharing time with others. Not so!

Whenever I would call on a student to explain their answers, the rest of the class would fall silent and listen. This is because we always knew that we could learn from anyone and everyone and we should always listen when someone had the floor. Our classroom rule was eyes and ears on the speaker; not the teacher. By not raising hands, students get A LOT of practice listening to their classmates, so naturally they got very good at it!

Another surprise was that shy students came out of their shells. Rather than being intimidated by all the volume and voices, these reserved children actually began to speak up more because they wanted to be a part of the group! Since everyone else was participating, even the quietest kids found opportunities to contribute. The shout-it-out structure does create something of a “sink-or-swim” environment– but kids almost always choose to swim when they see how much fun everyone else is having in the “water!” For example, two of my most quiet girls ended up becoming the most vocal and assertive contributors in our classroom by the end of the year. This change seemingly happened overnight, but they were building up their confidence and mindset all year! And that confidence and swagger hasn’t stopped shining until this day.

I know there are other concerns, and I get into all of them on this episode of the Punk Rock Preschool Podcast.

As I said, I’ll always give it to you straight. This isn’t an overnight fix and it does take time to implement, but it can be a huge game-changer for you and all of your students. But as with anything in Punk Rock Preschool, teach from within yourself and find the things that work best for you. This is just another tool that you can choose to use if it suits your classroom.  Listen here and find out if this style is for you! Also, please download the episode for special instructions on how to use our Freebie — the Punk Rock Preschool Salary System. 
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Resources and People Mentioned in this Podcast:

Show Notes (w/times):

  • 1:16 – Introduction
  • 4:27 – Mindset Shift
  • 6:18 – Strategies
  • 22:53 – Actionable Next Steps
  • 24:15 – Major Takeaways

Thanks so much for joining us this week! Did you think of some important skills I missed? Would you mind sharing in the comments so all the great teachers can use it too!? Thank you!

If you enjoyed this episode, please share it using the social media buttons you see at the bottom of the post. Also, please leave an honest review for the Punk Rock Preschool Podcast on iTunes. Ratings and reviews are super helpful and greatly appreciated and I will read all of them!  If you have any questions or want to learn more, head on over to! And finally, don’t forget to subscribe to the show on iTunes to get automatic updates!

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