Three Methods To Engage the Quiet Student
by Jill Jenkins
Teachers modify lessons to accommodate students who are visual learners, kinetic learners, students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, students with autism and students with varying degrees of language acquisition. Is there a larger group of students that we are ignoring? How do teachers make adaptions for introverts? To accommodate larger class sizes, teacher rely heavily on large class discussions and small group activities. For many students having an opportunity to articulate and move in the classroom not only relieves boredom, but increases retention of the learning material. For the shy or quiet students, these activities can be intimidating and terrifying. Regardless, students need to master the skills associated with oral communication. Being able to communicate ideas effectively in a group or to a group is an important skill for students to acquire to insure their success in the business world. How can teachers help the shy student overcome fear of speaking publically? Here are three methods: first, use task analysis to break public speaking into small teachable skills and have students practice them; second, have student solve problem independently before pairing them with another students to share; third, avoid extemporaneous speaking by allowing students time to prepare before presenting.
Break the Speech into Small Teachable Skills and Provide Practice
When I taught speech and debate, I encountered a lot of students who would rather face open heart surgery than speak publically. During one competition one girl fainted when she stood before a class of students. After reading Doctor Madeline Hunter's research on "The Mastery of Learning " I learned to use task analysis to break learning into teachable skills which allows scaffolding for struggling students. Shy students are often struggling because of their emotional state, so teaching the specific skills in small bites improves every student's performance. First, I began by talking about speaking anxiety and I asked students to write in their journals how they felt when they were asked to speak before the class. They shared their writings with a partner. Second, I taught them breathing and visualization techniques used to calm students and I had students practice each technique. Third, I modeled how to walk from their desk to the podium with poise, stand at the podium looking at the audience from the right to the left and center and smile before dropping my head, stepping away from the podium and returning to my desk with my head held high and with proper posture. Each student practiced this with their partner before performing it before the entire class. Each performance was rewarded with applause and praise. After each student had mastered walking to the podium, I instructed and modeled other skills including:
- eye contact
- and the structure of speeches
Each students practiced each skills with their partner and then before the class in a series of short exercise. Finally each student was ask to compose a 1-3 minutes speech and present it to he class. Regardless of their performance, I slathered them with praise to encourage them to keep working.
Adding visual aides like a Power Point Presentation allows shy students to hide behind technology and gives them a real world skill. Don't forget to model standing before the audience, but not in front of the screen, pointing to objects on the screen while facing the audience and correctly using the remote control. Allowing students to present in pairs will further increase a shy student's confidence.
Small Group Discussion
With class sizes growing to above forty in some schools, teachers rely on group discussions and activities to increase retention. Shy students who may have great ideas are often intimidated in this setting and their ideas are often lost. Having students respond in a journal first allows these student the time and space to compose their ideas making them less hesitant to share. According to Quiet: The Power of Introverts In A World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain quiet students respond better in pairs and trios than larger groups. I found this was true in my own classrooms, Also sliding two or three desks together was less time consuming and cumbersome than creating larger groups; thus, increasing learning time. The few dominate students were less likely to silence the less aggressive students because more students felt comfortable.
Avoid Extemporaneous Speaking
Quiet students are often more intellectual and reflective than their talkative counterparts. These student feel uncomfortable sharing an idea that they are forming or is not completely formed. As a result speaking extemporaneously is terrifying. Allowing students time to think and to write ideas in journals increases the likelihood that they will share them orally with the rest of the class or collaborate with others orally. Using alternative forms of communication before the students speak publically encourages quiet students to more freely share their ideas. For example, sharing ideas electronically can decrease their apprehension . Other students who dislike this preparation will probably "wing it" anyway, so you are not reducing their performance. However, giving shy students an opportunity to prepare will greatly increase shy students' participation. Above all do no push them. According to Quiet: The Power of Introverts In A World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain, encourage them to stretch their experience and praise them for their efforts.