As teachers, we are all trying to tune into our students. I remember 3rd grade clearly and at the end of the year I realized I had never once raised my hand to talk in front of my class. Yikes!
I’ve had teachers who tried forcing me to talk in front of groups. Some of my teachers were helpful and could coach me in a gentle way. Other teachers made me feel humiliated and where I wanted to hide deeper in my shell. Both of those models helped shape the way I interact with my students today. Here are a few tips to keep in mind with your own students…
1. Don’t tell the student they are shy.
When someone would point it out to me, I always felt more embarrassed and like everyone was staring at me waiting for me to speak. Yuck. The feelings of sitting there, anxiously worrying that everyone is going to notice me feeling super uncomfortable. Bad feeling. It’s better to just acknowledge the shy student when the speak up just as you would acknowledge every other student. Make it seem like no big deal. Of every student/teacher relationship is different and if you have an open line of communication with a shy student, your judgement is the best.
2. Give your students plenty of options to interact with silent signals.
This does not have to be a special trick reserved only for some students. Re: Tip#1, when you point it out, shyness and anxiety may become worse. So just give ALL of your students the options to use silent signals such as sign language (thumbs up, thumbs down, “I understand” signals, etc.). Not only does this get more of your students interacting in your lessons, but you are able to check the understanding of even your quietest students.
|My signal for “I agree”|
|My signal for “I made a connection”|
3. Give a silent sign before calling on a student.
If you are confident that one of your shy students has something to add, give a little warning such as place a finger on the corner of their desk or give them a wink beforehand. It can take away that deer in the headlights feeling 🙂 With a little warning, the student may be able to find their words and think of what they want to say. This means giving them plenty of wait time.
4. Use strategic buddies.
Be sure the student is sitting near someone they can relate to and feel comfortable with. This can make such a huge difference when it comes to partnership activities, turn & talks, etc.
5. Assign special jobs.
Do you have a classroom job that requires someone to interact with individuals, but not in front of everyone? In my classroom, I had a job for someone to check book bins and make sure everyone had between 3-5 books. If they had too many or too little, this person would go remind the student to adjust their book bin. A job like this is perfect for a shy student if they are willing to talk to classmates.
So there you go! I hope my perspective gives you some more tools for your toolbox when it comes to doing all the great work you are doing with your students!