Teaching Introverts and Shy Students

Our culture made a virtue of living only as extroverts. We discouraged the inner journey, the quest for a center. So we lost our center and have to find it again. — Anais Nin

In an age of on-demand entertainment and at-your-fingertips information, we feel a certain pressure to have exciting lessons — we make them fast-paced, game-based, competition-laced. We like to get students out of their seats, moving, laughing. That’s not bad at all; it’s wonderful to find ways to truly engage students. At the same time, we must remember that there is also need for quiet and spaciousness in a day. For some students, this is absolutely critical to their ability to learn.

I didn’t know this before — introverts and extroverts have different nervous systems. Introverts have more responsive systems, so it doesn’t take much stimulation to really set them afire. Extroverts have less responsive nervous systems and thus like more stimulation before they feel content. So the super entertaining, exhilarating lessons we create are perfect for extroverts but might be pushing introverts out of their comfort zones too often to be helpful.

Shy students are a bit different. They may be introverted or extroverted, but can be helped with similar techniques. Shy students often just need more time to warm up — they are afraid of being judged or looking silly in front of others, but once they feel comfortable with the group, might be quite extroverted.

It can be difficult to know how to make an engaging environment that is comfortable for introverted and shy students without just ignoring them. This can be especially difficult if you are an extroverted person. Here are some easy tips that will help all kinds of learners in your active lessons.

1-Minute Wait Time — Give students time to think on their own.
We talk about a 3-second wait time when calling on hands. I encourage giving students ample quiet time to answer the question on their own first. With Pear Deck, each student already has their own screen to answer for themselves. You can also set the countdown timer to 1 minute. This forces you to really give them significant space to think and it also helps students manage their time.

Highlight Answers as Good Examples
While both introverted and shy students are not likely to offer up a response, it doesn’t mean they don’t want their ideas heard. With Pear Deck you can easily highlight an answer from a shy or introverted student. It will be anonymous to the class, but that student will gain confidence from seeing their idea used as a good example and will be participating in a way that’s more comfortable to them.

Small Anonymous Temperature Checks

Doing a quick thumbs up/down temperature check is so easy, but for the shy student who is afraid of being judged, it’s probably not an accurate poll. They might just look around the room and mirror what their peers are doing regardless of how well they understand the lesson. Instead, use the Pear Deck Thumbsup/down template to let students answer anonymously on their own devices. You still get immediate feedback on how students are doing and it’s likely a better reflection of what each student thinks.

Include Quiet Moments in Your Lesson
While fast-paced, lively lessons are exciting, all students benefit from quiet moments. Silence gives students the time to “find their center,” and become comfortable with their own mind. You can incorporate an activity in your lesson that requires students to think or work quietly on their own, or you can even just have a few moments of straight-up, unplanned silence. While this is a benefit to all kinds of learners, it will be especially helpful to introverts whose nervous systems might be overstimulated by busy passing times or interaction-heavy activities.

Think, Pear, Share
Most teachers are probably familiar with Think, Pair, Share, where students first answer the question on their own, then discuss it with a partner, and finally share out from the pair. For introverted and shy students, this is a great balance of personal thinking time and collaborative interaction. It’s great for extroverts too as it helps them slow down and take time with their own mind before seeking out interaction. This can easily be accomplished with or without Pear Deck. If you are using Pear Deck, I recommend posing the question on the projector as you normally would. Before sharing answers on the Projector, have students turn toward a partner and discuss. When it’s time for sharing, you can display all the anonymous answers on the board highlighting relevant answers as the pairs share.

It’s true our classrooms often support and reward extroverts, but with a few simple tweaks to the flow of our lessons, we can encourage engagement from all kinds of learners and give each student space to “find their center.”

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