12 ways to support introverts in the classroom

Jasmin Choudhury

Monday, 18 February 2019

Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Some may perceive you like one or the other. However, in my opinion, there's an extrovert and an introvert in all of us.

It is what we do with these aspects of ourselves in different contexts that will help us in situations that need us to adapt.

Similarly, for children, some pupils are extroverts that naturally contribute in class and voice their opinions and appear confident and self-assured. As teachers though, we still need to look and observe more closely as sometimes being an extrovert can mask a whole host of issues.

introverts
Introverted pupils can also be a challenge in class. In the Oxford Dictionary, an introvert is described as a "shy and reticent person". What we need to know as teachers are that just because they have "quieter qualities" within their personality trait, they are not less able.It takes skilful teaching and learning and "getting to know the child carefully over time" that will help them make progress.

Here are 12 ways to encourage introverts in your class!

1. Get to know the child

Observe them keenly and look at how they behave and interact with their peers. Build up a picture from others such as teaching assistants, midday supervisors, parents and carers and former teachers. It will inform you on ways to move forward with the child.

2. Observe body language

Although some may seem shy and hesitant, body language and facial expressions still give us huge clues on what people think and their likes and dislikes.

3. Give them "Voice Time" and don’t interrupt them

Give pupils advance warning of what you want them to do and inform them of any change so that they have time to reflect. Be patient but persist in getting a contribution, so they also have the chance to share their ideas and opinions. Avoid interrupting then as that can disrupt their thought trains.

shy book class


4. Planned approach

During planning sessions, think carefully about your pupils and how to engage them. Sometimes putting their names down on lesson plans reminds you of the need to approach them differently.

5. Time to think

Children who display introvert tendencies tend to be more careful about contributing in class. They tend to be deep thinkers and can be self-reflective. Give them time by allowing them to observe and asking the question and coming back to the response, in good time, when they are ready.

Just because they are quiet, it doesn't mean that they don't have much to say. Often, introverts are perceptive and observe quietly and offer opinions that others may have missed.

6. One to One time

Develop times that you can talk to them and get to know them. Every child cherishes time with their teacher and introverts more so as often the extrovert pupils can easily demand more of our attention. One to one feedback and reading are excellent opportunities to develop this. Also, let them have learning time with a chosen peer who will champion them.

Intro vs extro

7. Grouping carefully

When doing group work, think carefully about how all your pupils will excel. Group or pair introverts with extroverts who are thoughtful of their needs, and who will also provide time and space to actively listen to them. In addition, create opportunities for them to work alone which they also enjoy and get them to share their learning.

8. Use different mediums for children to contribute

Sometimes introverted pupils find talking in class overwhelming. Use writing, drawing, choosing quotes and pictures to help them communicate what they want to say. They often have interesting takes on things and can offer poignant viewpoints.

9. Share information on famous introverts

Talk to your pupils about introverts who are famous. It is essential for them and those who are extroverts to know that being quiet and shy doesn’t hinder you from being successful. Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Sir Isaac Newton Steven Spielberg, Eleanor Roosevelt are famous introverts.

Interestingly, in her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain says, Rosa Parks, the famous civil rights activist, who challenged the bus authorities in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955 on only allowing white passengers to have seats was known as being “timid and shy” and yet she had “the courage of a lion”.

shy under the table

10. Give them ownership and develop interests

Get your pupils to suggest ideas of things they want to learn. Have pin boards and areas for them to voice their interests. Identify them and implement in your planning and share with the rest of the class whose idea it was.

It is good for the rest of the class to know that introverts too have great ideas, but they need to be developed differently. Teach the class to respect their personalities – we are all different!

11. Create situations that enable introverts and extroverts to adapt their natural personalities

People tend to pigeon hole people into extroverts or introverts. Be careful of this! Our job is to challenge our pupils in becoming “chameleons” who can adapt and change their personalities in line with the context and turn it to their advantage.

Create opportunities for introverts to be leaders of discussions and group projects. Similarly, extroverts need to be put in positions where they have to listen actively or be recorders or scribes which require them to develop skills that are different from their natural personalities. They will need coaching of course –and that's our job.

12. Effective Transitions

Ensure you give enough information for the next educator or school to build on any child’s progress but in particular introverts.

It takes time for you to build a picture of a child, especially quiet and shy pupils. The same probably applies to them too. Just as they have got to know you, it is time to change teachers or classes. Detailed notes and evidence will allow the next teacher to pick up the baton in the relay of teaching and learning.

While I have written about introverts, please note that every child is an individual and their needs to be tailored carefully. We all have certain personality traits and are shaped by our circumstances, our environments, our influences and the opportunities that arise or that are given to us.

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Our job is to create learners who can metamorphose like a caterpillar to a butterfly successfully in various situations whether they are children or adults themselves in later life. Even if they are taking part in the working world in their chosen career or mothers or fathers themselves, each situation will require them to flit back and forth from being an extrovert or an introvert.

Carl Jung who developed ideas on being an introvert or an extrovert stated, "There is no such thing as a pure introvert or extrovert".

In the working world and having participated in panels and leadership teams, it is vital to have both extroverts and introverts when having the best discussions. Having taken many Myers Briggs tests, I know both types bring awareness and necessary challenge to the table. As a result, significant decisions are made based on different stances.

The most important thing is not to get hung up on it -whichever one you or your pupils seem to be! Trust me as an introvert who has learnt to become an extrovert – you can adapt to suit the needs of the situation.

As Bill Gates says, we need to "tap into both sets of skills in order to have a company" (or any organisation for that matter), "that thrives in both deep thinking and building teams and going out into the world to sell those ideas”.

What we need to know as teachers is that just because they have “quieter qualities” within their personality trait, they are not less able. 

It is important for them and those who are extroverts to know that being quiet and shy doesn’t hinder you from being successful. Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Sir Isaac Newton Steven Spielberg, Eleanor Roosevelt are famous introverts.

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About our Community Expert

01_JASMIN

Jasmin Choudhury
Community Expert

Jasmin has extensive experience of working in a variety of settings which have included being recruited to work schools in special measures and concern as well as outstanding.

Jasmin has been qualified as a teacher for over 20 years and has been a Deputy Head, working mainly in some of the most deprived and challenging schools in the UK.

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