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  • Le Wang

Classroom Discussions: A Survival Guide

You walk into your English classroom, only to find that all the desks are set up in a circular shape. Your stomach drops. This circle formation can only be an indication of one thing, the dreaded Socratic seminar, and you haven’t done your reading. 

Or you know you haven’t read the assigned chapter in your history class, and now you have to face your teacher’s questions. 

The scenarios described above are an unfortunate situation that many high school students have faced in their academic career, in which a reading assignment may occasionally be forgotten, only for the student to have the rotten luck to have a Socratic seminar just the next day. Either way, you don’t want to risk damaging your participation grade, so what do you do?

If you ever find yourself needing to participate without actually knowing the material, just follow one of the approaches below, and maintain your participation grade. 

Approach 1: Copy Others 

This approach is exactly what the name implies: after all, why come up with your own ideas when you can use the ideas of others?

After someone makes an especially poignant point, just raise your hand and rephrase the gist of the idea. It’s necessary to phrase it so it seems like you're adding on to the previous person’s idea when in reality, you're just adding nothing to the conversation. 


“Yeah, I agree. Just to add on to that point, I also think that Holden isn’t ready to grow up yet. To further the idea, I really think Holden is clinging to his childhood.”

Congratulations! Now you have added nothing of substance to the conversation, but at least your teachers can’t say you haven’t participated. 

Approach 2: Use Tangents 

Sometimes classroom discussions go off topic. This approach will use that fact to your advantage. Let’s say you didn’t do the reading on the French Revolution, but you did spend last night studying for your right triangle test. So during class, find an appropriate time in the discussion, and drive the conversation towards a topic you are familiar with. 

For example, when the discussion starts to turn towards guillotines, you can talk about perpendicularity and right triangles. Now, you’ve turned the discussion to a topic you are comfortable with. 

Congratulations! Now not only have you not added anything of substance to your discussion, but you have disrupted the learning of those around you too!

Approach 3: Take the Risk 

This approach does not require you to actually participate in the conversation, but be warned, as there is a chance that your teacher may call on you for this. Essentially, you're going to raise your hand but hope that your teacher will call on someone else. The hope is that you won’t need to actually say anything, but your teacher will take note that your hand was up. Even better if you raise your hand while your teacher calls on someone else to give the impression that you would have liked to participate. 

Congratulations, you have mastered the art of participation without engaging your brain cells!

While your best bet is probably to do your assigned reading, don’t fret if it slips your mind. There are many ways that this guide has shown to avoid getting caught and they even allow you to still get those participation points in. Keep this guide handy at all times.


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