Student verbal participation is complex. It requires that students often step out of their comfort zones and express opinions that they are not always confident in sharing. Without proper planning, classroom conversations can become inequitable and dominated by a few participants. This study, conducted in a social studies class at Pacific Ridge, an independent school in Southern California, investigated how to structure classroom discussions to ensure equitable participation. In particular, it focused on how 10th grade students participated in Harkness discussions, where students are expected to direct and sustain the conversation through their own efforts. This research specifically focused on the role that gender, discussion topics, pedagogical purpose, and grades affected student motivation and participation. By analyzing student’s surveys, exit cards, and interviews, I found that students were more motivated to discuss topics that were new to them and when they knew that they were going to be graded on their participation. Gender also played a part, in that boys and girls tended to have different preferences when it came to the topic of discussion, duration, and also teacher participation in a classroom discussion. These findings highlight that discussions are greatly enhanced when the teacher knows each participant involved well, and designs discussions from the beginning with equity in mind.