Tips for Teaching Introverted Students

Instructor: Sarah Mills

Sarah is an educational freelance writer and has taught English and ESL in grades k-12 and college. She has a master's degree in both Literacy and TESOL.

In this lesson, teachers will learn strategies for effectively teaching introverted students. Some strategies that will be discussed include modifying the classroom environment and instruction.

Introversion in the Classroom

What did Albert Einstein, Mahatma Gandhi, and Rosa Parks all have in common, besides being some of the world's most influential people? They were all introverts, or people who think and work best alone. They didn't climb to the top by working on group projects and collaborating with others. Instead, their most powerful asset was their ability to work independently.

In a typical classroom in the United States, students have plenty of opportunities to interact and socialize. Many teachers encourage students to work together by implementing partner and small group work, games and competitions, peer editing, team projects, shared reading, and collaborative writing activities.

However, not all students are comfortable working with others, and not necessarily because they're shy. Some students are introverted, and spending too much time with others can deplete their energy. These students tend to work and produce their best work on their own.

So how can teachers adjust their instruction to support introverts in the classroom? Just as lessons are differentiated to address students' interests, abilities, and learning styles, your teaching style can be adapted to accommodate introverted students. Let's take a look at some key strategies.

Adjust Your Perspective

Teachers are constantly reflecting on ways to improve their instruction, and this situation is no different. Sometimes, all that's needed is a shift in perspective. When you assign a group activity and a student says, 'I want to work alone,' take some time to reflect on that. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does this assignment absolutely require students to interact?
  • If so, is there a way I can modify the assignment to lessen the collaborative requirement for introverted students?
  • Which parts of the activity, if any, could the student complete independently?
  • Does this student tend to produce excellent work when given the space to work independently?
  • Is it possible that forcing this student to work in a group might hamper his/her creative process?

Instead of adapting a 'my way or the highway' teaching approach, think about how you can support your introverted students, even if the methods you use are unconventional.

Modify the Environment

Since introverts often need quiet time in order to re-energize, consider creating spaces in your classroom where students can enjoy their solitude. Some teachers have a special corner in their room with comfortable chairs for reading.

Also, consider your seating chart. Introverts are more likely to want to sit in the back of the classroom or at the end of a row rather than front and center. As long as preferential seating improves academic performance, you may as well utilize it.

Another thing to consider is whether the use of light music or headphones might be an option. Many studies support the claim that listening to music can enhance productivity. Music can also help introverted students focus better and block out distractions.

Make Accommodations

It's unavoidable: sometimes, students have to work together. For example, let's say you want students to break into small groups to discuss or debate a topic. Introverted students might hesitate to join a group of students and actively participate, but part of their grade may be based on their ability to communicate and express themselves verbally.

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