We’ve all had them, the students who just have to call out answers without waiting to be recognized. For those of you old enough to recall the TV show Welcome Back, Kotter (1975–1979), Arnold Dingfelder Horshack, the Sweathog who had an irrepressible need to be called upon (Ohhohhohhohh), could be the poster child for blurters everywhere. These kids can often create a difficult classroom environment or disrupt the thinking process of other students. So what do we do with—and for—blurters?
Human personality theories, popularized by Carl Jung, define people on a continuum from introversion to extroversion. Typically, introverts are those individuals who are perceived as more reserved and sometimes demonstrate a desire to be in small groups or by themselves. Their sense of worth is developed intrinsically. Introverted students like to take time to ponder ideas until they feel confident in their responses. These kids expand their energies through contemplation and reflection. Large groups or commotion can sap their energies.
Extroverts gain their energies from group interactions and high levels of clatter. They tend to get gratification through extrinsic (outside the self) factors. They enjoy larger groups of people and parties, and tend to prefer physical activities. They can often be described as assertive and talkative. Extroverts think out loud, process information verbally, and sometimes don’t care if others are listening to them.
Extroverted thinkers are quick to respond and like to call out their answers before others have had a chance to think about the question. This fast action may make it appear as if extroverts are not deep thinkers. In some cases this may be true, however, I believe that extroverts’ level of fluency (speed) with thinking is actually a favorable quality. Fluent thinkers (those who come up with responses quickly) don’t prejudge their thoughts, giving them an advantage in the brainstorming process. Additionally, coming up with many ideas is extremely helpful when solving problems.
On the other hand, extroverted thinkers may not necessarily take enough time to contemplate their ideas, thoughts, or responses. This lack of inhibition, or need to blurt out, can be overpowering in a classroom and extremely distracting to those who don’t think out loud. As an extroverted thinker myself, I had to learn strategies and techniques to regulate my behavior in group settings.
Avert the Blurt
One of the most effective classroom strategies I’ve learned is to have extroverted thinkers write down their thoughts. To assist students with this idea, I had sticky notes printed with the word blurt at the top. My class went on an “Avert the Blurt” campaign. I taught students how to use the sticky note pads, where to post “blurts” so I could acknowledge their thoughts and responses, and what to do while they waited for others to respond. In many cases, after students posted their initial blurt responses, they would go back and rethink them or come up with another idea.
Extroverted thinkers just want to get the ideas out of their heads—if they don’t, they may perseverate on one idea to the point where they paralyze deeper thinking.
Time for Thinking Fast/Time for Thinking Slow
Another idea is to prepare all your students for times when you will be taking quick responses and times when you will be expecting delayed responses. Both extroverts and introverts can benefit from stretching beyond a preferred way of doing. Let your students know that there will be time for fast thinking and there will be time for slow thinking. Schedule the times throughout your day and post a sign in the classroom stating FAST or SLOW. Students will need verbal and visual reminders to help them regulate their response times.
We want our students to be proficient thinkers. How they approach the thinking process is an important aspect of proficiency. We don’t want to squelch extroverted thinkers by making them stay quiet while others take time to process. And we don’t want to inhibit our introverted thinkers by surrounding them with quick responders. We need to strike a balance. I’d love to hear your ideas on helping extroverted and introverted thinkers be successful in the classroom.
Richard M. Cash, Ed.D., writes the monthly Cash in on Learning blog posts for Free Spirit Publishing. He has given hundreds of workshops, presentations, and staff development sessions throughout the United States and internationally.
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