As young learner teachers, we have the opportunity to shape the lives of our students in meaningful ways. One way we can make a lasting impact is by creating an inclusive classroom environment that caters to the needs of all students, including introverts and shy children. 

In this blog post, we’ll explore the importance of understanding our quieter students’ needs and provide practical strategies to create a supportive learning space.

Introverted or shy? What’s the difference?

To effectively support introverted and shy students, it’s essential to understand the nature of introversion and shyness. 

While it can be tricky to tell the difference, these two things are not the same. Introversion is a personality trait characterised by a preference for internal reflection and solitude, while shyness can cause feelings of discomfort or anxiety in social situations.

Both may be reluctant to work with other students or speak in front of the class. They may also only want to share their answers when they are sure of having the right answer or are confident of what they’re saying.

However, one difference is that shy students, although they may struggle to interact with others and be reluctant to initiate a conversation, may actually want to be part of the group.

You’ll probably recognise this situation: 

In an unfamiliar place or with new people, shy children may stand off to the side rather than joining in games with other children or they may prefer to stay near the adults. However, when invited by other children, they will often happily go off and play together.

An introverted child often prefers to play by themselves or with one or two other friends. Being around other people for extended periods is tiring or draining and so these children often escape social play and exchange it for an individual game or a book.

So how can we make our classroom a place where our introverted and shy students feel at home?

3 ways to foster belonging with introverted and shy learners

1 Provide alternative ways for students to contribute and participate

Group discussions and activities can be overwhelming for introverted and shy students, often leading to a lack of participation and contribution. By providing alternative ways for students to engage, such as written responses or small group discussions, we encourage their involvement and ensure their voices are heard. We can offer a choice of methods of participation including writing on slips of paper or digital platforms, online discussions, or one-on-one feedback sessions, allowing our introverted and shy students to express their thoughts and ideas in a way that feels comfortable for them.

2 Create quiet spaces and opportunities for reflection

Large classes and noisy environments can be particularly challenging for introverted and shy students. Designating quiet spaces within the classroom for independent work or reflection time provides introverted and shy students with a safe haven where they can recharge and focus. You might even consider allowing students to use noise-cancelling headphones.

3 Building a supportive and empathetic classroom environment

Introverted and shy students may experience social anxiety and feelings of isolation. Foster positive peer relationships through getting to know you activities, cooperative learning tasks, or setting up a buddy system to help reduce anxiety and foster a sense of belonging.

As teachers, it’s our job to create an inclusive classroom environment where our introverted and shy students belong. We can do this in different ways. Consider your seating arrangements, incorporate a mix of individual work, small group activities, and whole-class discussions and provide individualised support and feedback where possible. 

You’ll find lots of ideas, tips and activities in Teaching Introverts Toolkit. And if you’re not yet convinced, why not grab your free copy of the Teaching Introverts Cheat Sheet?

You can also watch all ten episodes of my recent mini-video series on teaching introverts on YouTube. It’ll take you just under 14 minutes – why not watch while you’re having a coffee break?

Creating an inclusive classroom environment is not only beneficial for students’ academic progress but also for their overall well-being. Let’s embrace the diversity in our classrooms and make a positive difference in the lives of our introverted and shy students, amongst others. 

And remember this mantra I’ve just made up:

Don’t forget the quiet ones!