How Can I Support a Shy Student in the Classroom?

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HowcanISupportaShyStudentintheClassroomBeing shy is not a cause for worry. But, when shyness, limits a student’s participation in the classroom, then it becomes a concern. Students who are shy, mostly take great effort not to be noticed and rarely engage in group discussions. On the off chance, they do participate; but their responses are softly spoken with a lack of confidence. They are social outcasts as peers misperceive them as unfriendly and disinterested, which in turn results in depression and low self esteem. It is, therefore, extremely important that we create a classroom environment that is conducive and encouraging for these students.

Below are some strategies to help a shy student be comfortable in their classroom and facilitate participation.

Set some ground rules: Rules define a student’s behavior in the classroom. Rules that necessitate equal participation in class activities, talking in turns, listening without interruption give structure to the student. Also, rules that prevent negative actions like bullying, taunting, negative comments, etc. are a first step towards creating a safe classroom for shy students.

You can also have a small talk to make students understand that each one is unique and different in characters. It will help to portray “shyness” in a different light and make students more accepting of each other.

Know your students: Build a rapport with the student to develop a trusting relation. Your student should have the confidence to confide in you. Have frequent conversations with them, as it will improve their comfort and skill in communicating and interacting with others.

Classroom arrangements: It is preferable to seat shy students near the front of the class. This allows you to be closer, initiate and maintain eye contact and communicate freely with them. The seating has the added advantage that, the student may be more willing to open up and answer as they are less aware of the other students around them.  You can also have them sit next to a student who is friendly and helpful, so as to nudge them into a little social interaction.

Groups: When grouping students, start with small groups and avoid pairing shy students with dominant students, as this may cause overshadowing of the shy student. Give specific roles to the members so that they are encouraged to contribute to the activity. You can also have the same group for different activities as this promotes familiarity and the student will be more willing to actively participate in the group. As their confidence in peer interaction improves, you can gradually introduce them to a bigger group.

Use positive reinforcements: Reward every small step taken by the student using positive reinforcements. Use an encouraging tone when asking for an answer, comment and display their works so that the students are given an opportunity to be confident of their abilities. Be sure to not overly criticize them for any wrongdoing, as this will once again drive them back to their shell.

Develop interpersonal skills: You can teach your student various conversation openers to help them interact. Interactive games, icebreakers and paired activities (students have to learn two new things about each other) can also help facilitate interaction. These students can also be assigned as a study buddy or a mentor for a younger student to encourage interaction.

Include class activities: You can involve them in class discussions through the use of strategies like the use of a talking baton, row answering (each student in the row is asked a question one by one) etc. This takes away the element of surprise and students can be mentally prepared to be called on.

Though not an instant change, inclusion of these tips along with time and patience will help your shy student to bloom.

Discuss here: What are strategies that you use to engage and involve shy students in your classroom?

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