Part of our Counselor’s Corner series. Click to read other posts in the Counselor’s Corner.
Introverts 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.
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.
(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:
- “How to Teach a Young Introvert” by Kate Torgovnick May
- Quiet Revolution, Susan Cain’s website; check out the Kids and Parenting section
- Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
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