Supporting Introverted Students at School

Part of our Counselor’s Corner series. Click to read other posts in the Counselor’s Corner.

Supporting Introverted Students at SchoolIntroverts have been getting a lot more attention since Susan Cain’s New York Times best-selling book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Many children (and adults) get the message from our society that extroversion is good and introversion is bad. School is one place where the preference for extroversion is blatantly obvious. Children are encouraged to raise their hands and participate in class discussions, work in groups, sit with groups of peers, and do many activities that involve interacting with peers and adults all day long.

It’s not that introverts are shy; they just operate differently than extroverts. One way to understand the difference between extroverts and introverts is where they get their energy. Extroverts get energy from interacting with people. Introverts, on the other hand, get their energy from spending time alone. There are simple things you can do when working with children to support both introverts and extroverts in the classroom.

Schedule Downtime
Lunch and recess can be overwhelming times for introverted students. Cafeterias can be loud and involve a lot of interaction with peers. Recess, if it does not allow for students to choose what they do, can also be stressful for introverted students. Think about the structure of your school day and how you can incorporate downtime after activities that provide a lot of interaction. Schedule silent reading time or silent working time after lunch and/or recess. These breaks from peer interaction will allow introverted students to recharge.

Reading Response Worksheet

Bonus! Download the Reading Response Sheet from Teaching Gifted Kids in Today’s Classroom. Students can use this free printable worksheet at the end of silent reading time to jot down their thoughts about what they’ve read.

Provide Multiple Ways to Participate
Raising your hand and giving an answer is not the only way that children can show they understand the content. Consider alternate ways you can gauge student learning. If your school has 1:1 devices, you can use services such as Kahoot!, a free game-based digital learning platform, that allows students to respond to questions using their devices.

A low-tech way to get all students involved in responding to questions and assessing their learning is to use sticky notes. Have students record their answer on a sticky note and stick it to the board or a chart sheet. You can also get students up and moving by having them respond to a question or prompt by physically moving to different parts of the room. These strategies aren’t just good for introverts, they are great ways to engage all students.

Celebrate Both Introversion and Extroversion
I have come across two great books that address introversion: Quiet Kid by Debbie Fox and The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig. Read one or both of these books with younger students. Consider showing this animated video by Susan Cain about introversion and extroversion to older students. Have a discussion about introversion and extroversion without placing a higher value on either. Both introverted and extroverted people have valuable skills and traits. Have students consider where they might fall on a continuum of extroversion to introversion. Helping students learn where they get their energy and how they are most productive can help them in all aspects of life.

How do you support introverted students?

Here are some more resources you may find helpful to share with teachers and parents about supporting introverted students:

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Top 10 Reasons to Use Humor in the Classroom

by Patrick Kelley, author of Teaching Smarter

Top 10 Reasons to Use Humor in the ClassroomWhat use does humor have in the classroom? See Patrick Kelley’s Top Ten Answers:
(Note: Let’s define humor as positive exaggerations, puns, and funny stories directed at a neutral party. Avoid using your students as the topic of humor.)

10. Humor reduces stress in the classroom. After a laugh, an atmosphere of cooperation enters the room. Use political cartoons as starters. Critical thinking and knowledge are benefits that come after the chuckle.

9. Humor increases creativity. One good pun creates another. Start the class with a famous quote on the whiteboard and ask students to give it a “modern touch.” You will definitely get a laugh, and students will increase their knowledge.

8. Humor reduces negative talk. It is hard to complain after smiling. Have students begin the class by writing captions to a photo you have chosen to introduce your lesson.

7. Humor creates more memorable lessons. I once put a small pebble on everyone’s desk before the start of a class debate on the legalization of pot. Can you think of a pun? They sure could.

6. Humor leads to more work being completed. Humor is like an appetizer. Your students may not start out all that hungry for what you have to offer that day, but throw in a little humor and they are ready to finish the plate. Have them start by writing a limerick on the concept you are presenting. Of course, share out loud.

10 Reasons to Use Humor in the Classroom5. Humor leads to fewer discipline problems. It’s hard to defy authority when you’re smiling. Open with a short video clip that students have made on their cell phones. I have them give it to me on a flash drive. It can be an imitation of you teaching a past lesson. In this way, you can review what you have already taught and assess what they remember. You will love (I hope) to see how they view your teaching mannerisms.

4. Humor creates more student “buy in.” When introducing a new topic or concept, begin by putting students in groups and having them draw pictures of what they already know or think about the topic on small whiteboards (like Pictionary). Warning: There will be laughter.

3. Humor improves your relationship with families. Dealing with parents is tough at times. When parents hear how much their son or daughter loves your class, it becomes easier for them to accept what you have to say in times of stress. Try having students warm up (for example) by telling how their dad/uncle/friend would have handled the topic of that day’s lesson. This provides laughter and valuable insight into the people in your students’ lives.

2. Humor is team- and family-building. We rarely laugh with our enemies because laughing brings people closer. Introduce your lessons with sound effects. They never fail to amuse and engage younger students. Don’t have any recorded sounds? Ask your students what would be (for example) a good sound effect for a dangling participle or a trapezoid? Every time they hear trapezoid they will remember its auditory definition.

1. Humor = You write this one! I am eager to hear what you use to start the class on the right foot—with humor or something equally good. Thanks!

Kelley-Patrick-Free Spirit authorPatrick Kelley, M.A., has a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from California State University San Bernardino and a bachelor’s degree in history from Castleton State College in Vermont. He has been a classroom teacher for more than twenty-five years. He has experience as a mentor teacher and an AP coordinator as well as ten years of experience with the AVID program. He is certified in Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) and currently works with the International Baccalaureate program. Patrick provides workshops and presentations to districts, schools, and teams. Visit him at

TeachingSmarter from FSPPatrick Kelley is the author of Teaching Smarter: An Unconventional Guide to Boosting Student Success.

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5 Tips for Engaging Parents at the Start of the School Year

Part of our Cash in on Learning Series by Richard M. Cash, Ed.D. Click to read other Cash in on Learning posts.

5 Tips for Engaging Parents at the Start of the School YearWhen I was a classroom teacher, the beginning of August signaled that it was time for me to start thinking about my coming school year. I was always curious about the makeup of my class and the parents I would encounter throughout the year. I learned quickly that for my year to go well, I needed to form a bond with parents right from the beginning of the school year. Here are five tips to help you engage parents right from the get-go:

1. Share your background, philosophy, and personality
Through a letter, video, or email, tell parents your story. Share with them your background, family members, hobbies, favorite books, pets, and trips you’ve taken. Always offer information about yourself that you feel is appropriate and safe to share. Parents want to know that you are approachable, have interests, and enjoy what you do. Tell them your general philosophy about teaching and learning. Let them know your passion for teaching. The more you can share about yourself and your style of teaching, classroom management strategies, and expectations, the more comfortable parents will feel handing over their child to your care.

2. Share positive interactions
During the first week of school, keep copious notes about your interactions with your new students, always looking for positive moments. Then, spend the evenings of those first and second weeks of school calling all your students’ parents to introduce yourself. I prefer phone calls over emails because I want to engage with my students’ parents more interactively. During the call, share at least one positive thing you learned about their child from your notes. Often, parents don’t hear from their child’s teacher until there is a problem; this kind of initial interaction can set up an adversarial relationship. By starting off with something you enjoy, find charming, or notice is an area of talent for their child, you let the parents know you care.

3. Seek their advice
In that first phone call, ask parents to offer at least one piece of advice about working with their child. Ask questions such as:

  • How do you engage your child in new topics or areas of interest?
  • How do you work with your child when she is frustrated, challenged, or challenging?
  • What makes your child “tick”? Or, what drives your child?
  • Are there issues or concerns I should know about, and what ways do you deal with them at home?
  • Where might your child feel his greatest challenges are, and what suggestions would you offer me?

Asking probing questions about how the parent works with the child at home can give you a lot of insight into what may or may not work in school. Seeking parents’ advice lets them know you are partners in the child’s development.

How to Engage Parents at the Start of the School Year4. Seek their help
In every classroom, make room for parent participation, volunteerism, or support. In an introductory newsletter to your families, let them know you are open to having parents in the classroom to volunteer their time or help out with activities and events throughout the year. Provide a website or form where they can sign up for volunteer times in the room or for different activities where you will need assistance, such as field trips, classroom parties, or school-wide events.

Keep in mind that not every parent will have time during the school day to volunteer. Offer parents opportunities to do things outside of the school day. One year, I had a parent who was an outstanding Web designer. I asked her to help our school re-craft its website to make it more appealing and easier to use. This was something she could do in the evenings and on the weekends. Offering parents possibilities for being involved in your classroom makes your learning space a shared learning space.

5. Stay consistent
One thing that can frustrate parents is when teachers are inconsistent with how they manage the classroom, how they deal with children, how they perform certain procedures such as collecting and assessing homework, and so forth. When parents are aware of the norms and processes in your classroom, making changes without notification or communication can cause problems. On your website or in a newsletter, post your classroom norms (the expectations in the classroom), ways you deal with homework, and other procedures. Being consistent will give your families a sense of predictability and security that your classroom is well organized.

These tips can help you start the year off right by making your parents feel comfortable with you and a part of the learning process. I’d love to hear your top tips for starting the year out right with parents.

Richard Cash EdD, FSP AuthorRichard M. Cash, Ed.D., writes the monthly Cash in on Learning blog posts for Free Spirit. He has given hundreds of workshops, presentations, and staff development sessions throughout the United States and internationally.

Free Spirit books by Richard Cash:

AdvancingDifferentiation DifferentiationForGiftedLearners from FSP

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Expert Advice on Truancy Prevention

By April M. Snodgrass, M.Ed., coauthor of The Principal’s Survival Guide

Truancy PreventionTruancy is a multilayered problem that is rarely as simple as a child not wanting to attend school. While each case has to be examined individually for any truancy prevention to be completely successful, you can ask some basic questions to see if you are on the right track to increasing attendance.

Is our school a place where kids want to be? Does our school look and feel friendly and comforting?
If your school is a place that feels cold or unwelcoming to students or parents, then neither will want to have the child there every day. Think about the way your school looks, how inviting it is, or how easy it is to navigate. Is it hard for someone to find the main office, where to register their student, or where to sign in to volunteer? Are there signs that point people in the right direction, or better yet, is someone there to greet them when they come in the door? What procedures do you have in place to help new students at the beginning of the year or any time they may move to your school? A fresh coat of paint and a packet of information for parents can go a long way toward making people feel welcome.

Are our lessons engaging? Are there activities for students to take part in?
Are your classrooms places where students feel safe to make mistakes and grow? Is there active, engaging learning taking place? At all grades, are there ways for parents and students to feel connected to the school? At the upper grades, are there activities, clubs, sports, music, etc. that kids can be involved in? Are there supports to help all students take part in these activities? This question takes us to our next important question . . .

Truancy Prevention: Questions Every Principal Should AskAre we supporting the whole child?
A child who does not have enough to eat, a warm place to sleep, a place to bathe, or transportation to get to and from school is more likely to be truant. Most schools provide breakfast and lunch for students in need, but your school may want to look at partnering with organizations that provide food for nights and weekends, or you may want to create your own program. Consider having more of your clubs and activities built into the regular school day so even students who do not have transportation will be able to attend. Set up free transportation options for events that occur outside of school hours like athletic events or performances.

Are we supporting the whole family?
Truancy is rarely a child-only issue. Instability in a family often affects truancy rates, as does a family’s status. Parents who do not have their own transportation cannot bring a child to school if they happen to miss the bus. Parents who speak little or no English often need their English-speaking children to be translators and will keep them out of school for this purpose.

Instead of punishing students and parents for these needs, partner with community organizations to help provide translation and interpretation services, transportation, and supports to keep housing stable. If you have older students, see if they or recently graduated students could translate at school events or programs on a volunteer basis. This is a great service to your community and looks excellent on their college and job applications.

Do students see school as their way to a better future? Do they even see that a future is possible?
As students age, they tend to lose their belief that they can do or be anything. Self-doubt, which is often reinforced by the outside world, can make their futures look dark, or worse yet, blank. What does your school have in place to provide mentorship and support to students and to give them opportunities to see real possibilities for their future? Partner with local community organizations and businesses to have college- and career-learning opportunities for all grade levels. For older students who have fallen behind in credits, create and clearly communicate with parents and students a plan for getting the student back on the right track.

Solving the problem of truancy is not easy, and it is not something that schools can do alone. Schools must partner with students, parents/guardians, and the community to tackle this daunting problem.

April M. Snodgrass, M.Ed.April M. Snodgrass, M.Ed., is currently an assistant principal and has been a teacher, instructional coach, and assistant principal in both urban and suburban schools. She holds a master’s degree in supervision and administration from Middle Tennessee State University. She has been a speaker at a variety of conferences including ASCD and has also been published in Educational Leadership. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee.

The Principal's Survival GuideApril M. Snodgrass, M.Ed., is the coauthor of The Principal’s Survival Guide.

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Enter to Win Books for Building Successful Schools!

Giveaway: Books for Building Successful SchoolsThis giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to our winner, Ramona Williamson!

This month we’re giving away books for principals, teachers, and counselors that will enhance instruction, motivate staff, improve school climate, and more!

To Enter: Leave a comment below telling us your favorite tip for building a successful school community. This giveaway is now closed.

For additional entries, leave a separate comment below for each of the following tasks that you complete:

Each comment counts as a separate entry—that’s four chances to win! Entries must be received by midnight, August 21, 2015.

The winner will be contacted via email on or around August 24, 2015, and will need to respond within 72 hours to claim his or her prize or another winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way affiliated with, administered, or endorsed by Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. Winner must be a U.S. resident, 18 years of age or older.

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