The world can often be an overwhelming place for introverts, especially for young ones. The term “introvert” is a bit of a buzzword these days, thanks to Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. For extroverts, things like school, parties, and making friends come a little bit more easily, but for shy and introverted students, finding their place in school and in social groups can be more challenging. Introverted students can often feel left behind because of their reserve, but they’re just as intelligent and capable as other students. The trick to bringing out their best is knowing how to reach them.
Some introverted students do quite well in school, but many others struggle to find their voice. A major key in helping an introvert do well in school is knowing where their energy comes from: Introverts re-energize by being alone, while extroverts find energy by being with others. This is an important point for teachers to remember. Extensive group work or cold-calling will wear an introvert out. Break up group-focused lessons by allowing for alone time, solitary reflection, or a quiet period of reading.
Cain encourages teachers and parents to use a think/pair/share technique to get introverts engaged in a lesson. In this method, the teacher will pose a question to the students, then ask them to think or write about their response. Then, students pair up to talk about their answers, and a few minutes later the class can come together as a whole. This method is especially helpful for introverts because it allows them time to process their thoughts first and then speak them aloud only to one other person at first. It helps the introvert approach the rest of the class more comfortably and with more confidence.
To help introverts approach school more readily, other classroom techniques appear to make them more comfortable. Introverts need quiet zones with little stimulation to help them feel energized again. Creating a quiet play room that introverts can use during recess while their extroverted friends are running around outside helps.
Encouraging interests helps, too. Ask students about their hobbies and the things they like, and gear class projects toward students’ individual interests. This is good for introverts, extroverts, and students in between. Allowing time for reflection and internal engagement is helpful for all students, and it is a good way to put introverts at ease.