I have this quiet class. This awkward, boring, quiet class. I walk in the room after hall duty, say good morning to my class and then hear crickets chirp. Sometimes, when my lesson finishes about 5 minutes before the bell rings, I give the class free time. This class sits there and stares at the clock. Lucky for me I have the same course later in the day and that class talks, and participates, and brainstorms with each other. So, I know it's not me entirely.
I've tried partner work (there are tables in my room, so the students always have a partner) - nothing.
I've tried problems where they are forced to talk to each other because the work on their paper depends on the work of their partners paper - nothing.
I've tried group work with 3 or 4 people - a little better, the students talked but minimally.
I've tried a mathalicious lesson where opinions are encouraged - no one had an opinion.
Finally, I asked the students to write down the names of the students in class they would talk to. I created a seating chart based on this and finally, finally, they talk.