I like being slightly on the introverted side. It hasn’t always been that way. I used to think that I was lacking that “social butterfly” thing that my sister had. It was a shortcoming.
And then I grew up.
I began to gain confidence in my ability to listen quietly.
I started working more on things I care about (education) and you couldn’t get me to shut up about it (still can’t). It became obvious to me that being an introvert is not social ineptitude. Introverts prefer to “recharge their batteries” at home or at small gatherings with a few close friends.
Some of my students were very quiet, and possibly “shy.” But others were not shy by any sense of the word… yet they just weren’t as interested in loud, busy, large-group games. An introvert might be heard humming to herself with chalk-covered pants after doodling alone while a football games rumbles past. Tucked behind the 4-square might be an introvert catching his own rebound. As a fellow introvert, I understood they just needed some personal down time. Parents will worry their child is struggling to develop socially. Not to worry!
As an educator, you are charged with providing learning to all students. And yes, we are expected to personalize that learning. And yes, we are supposed to use as many different modalities and paths to learning as possible.
But have you considered your introverts?
1 in 3 students is likely an introvert.
If you have students doing paired-shares a lot, that may be taxing on your introverts. That’s not to suggest that you stop doing them or even do less of them. Rather, consider spreading them out through the day, having introverts sit on the outside edge of the rug (to not feel so surrounded by people), or even allow students to choose partners from time to time.
What about work spaces? Are your introverts right next to your extroverts? I’m not suggesting that you put all the most extroverted students at one table. Maybe put the introvert at the same table but on the edge so they only have one neighbor, or offer students another table to work at for part of the day so they aren’t always next to other students.
Are you cultivating thinkers, or talkers?
The ability to sit and quietly reflect is a skill that we may not be cultivating in our students because of too much talk. It is critical that we honor the introvert, extrovert, and ambivert in our classroom.
Don’t worry, I know what you are likely thinking:
My administrator wants me to “Use turn-and-talk more,” and said, “Workshop model requires 60%-80% children talking.”
Think, for a moment, how taxing that is for an introvert. It might be too much.
A simple solution is to give significant wait time BEFORE you have students do paired-shares. Provide the quiet.
Wait time doesn’t just apply to students raising hands. Introverts may also benefit from wait time before entering an activity. I have seen this with play in kindergarten. Some children watch for a little while and then jump into play. This can apply to people of all ages with new activities or around new people.
10 Tips for Teaching Introverts:
- Don’t call them shy~ introversion is how you prefer to spend your time not a reflection of social anxiety.
- Provide quiet spaces away from the masses during work time.
- Provide thinking time before asking students to share.
- Scaffold new experiences (field trips, etc) allow them to hear and think about it first, and then to witness, and finally to approach it in his/her own time.
- Teach coping mechanisms like using headphones with quiet music.
- Teach social skills (greetings, common phrases, and responses).
- Don’t attempt to “cure” introversion. Support social skills and respect the space, time, and volume your introverts need.
- Consider offering all of your students (introverts and extroverts) the chance to work on projects alone or in partnerships.
- Discover and play to his/her strengths.
- Build connections for students “Alex, did you know that Sophia also plays piano?”
If you know you have an incoming student who is particularly introverted or even anxious about the new year, consider inviting the parents to use the playground and tour the building before the school year starts. I wouldn’t encourage all introverts to do this, but for those who are anxious, it can help them to imagine themselves in the situation.
Let’s play: Can You Spot the Introvert?
Hopefully you have picked up a few tips about your students who happen to be introverts! I'd love to hear more about what you do. Leave a comment!