One aspect of becoming a Teaching Assistant that you’ll quickly need to grow accustomed to is how to communicate effectively with shy, introverted students. You’ll come across all different personality types from: boisterous, the giggly types, super-duper outgoing kids - all of which might be easy to interact with and direct. But what about the kind of student that isn’t too interactive, doesn’t want to speak to you (the teacher, or pretty much anyone else for that matter) or engage in class discussions or activities.
It can take a little while to figure out the best course of action for each particular student and navigate how to help them come out of their shell. It just takes some time, using your social skills to enhance their confidence in a slow, steady manner and adapting to what will make them comfortable… yet help them out of their comfort zone!
Here’s a list of some of our advice for addressing how to win over and encourage more introverted students, increase their participation and enhance their social skills:
Focus on building a rapport and friendly relationship
In order to really see growth and gain better interactions with that particular student, you’re going to want to cultivate and foster a great relationship with them - get to know them better and show you genuinely care and want to know them! Take the soft approach, display that you’re attentive, responsive and an excellent listener too when you do speak.
They’ll respond well to your kindness and proceed to open up to you more and more. It might happen in baby steps, little by little - or they might become more extroverted with you quicker than you might think!
In terms of questioning them about the contents of the lesson, try waiting around ten seconds
before either repeating the question or giving the pupil extra time to process the interaction as well as thinking up a thoughtful answer to your question.
Reaffirm to the student that they’re in a safe space
Introverted students watch the classroom dynamic and interactions to determine whether they’re in a safe space to both be themselves and contribute freely.
Looking back, we’ve all had experiences where mistakes were ridiculed instead of kindly corrected or wrong answers were received with contempt instead of understanding. Whether the student feels uneasy to speak up because of factors like this or if they’re naturally really guarded, do your best to show your support and empathy.
One way to entertain further conversation would be by getting the student to expand on their initial, brief answers to gain more deep and perceptive dialogue. Be clear, sensitive and make sure the pupil understands your question or point. If they seem put on the spot, then circle back to them later and try again.
Focus on their accomplishments - give them a bit of praise!
Sounds simple, but just a reminder that it goes a long way and is an ideal way to help start up a positive dialogue with a shy student. From telling them their drawing skills are good, complimenting their written skills or telling them they're on the right track and doing well in the class - it helps to break down their guard and even crack a smile.
Every kid wants to feel validated, reminded of their worth and to feel special too. Maybe a big reason for that child’s shyness has to do with their academic insecurities. It can help build their confidence, shows their efforts haven’t gone unnoticed, encourages them and ultimately gives them a happier experience in the classroom.
Give them a little nudge in the right direction
Once you’ve established a decent level of trust and engagement with the student, encourage them to participate in class activities that require a greater level of verbal interaction. Whether it’s roleplay, song - anything where you can see them attempt to veer out of their comfort zone. Show your support, belief and spur them on to bring out the best in themself.
However, avoid putting pressure on the student and don’t force them into anything they simply feel too overwhelmed to do. You don’t want to undo all that progress and diminish the level of trust built.
There’s a fine line between giving them a gentle nudge, suggesting they raise their hand or participate in a certain activity then being pushy and forceful with them - you don’t want to be that kind of Teaching Assistant!
Embrace collaborative learning and non-verbal options
Suggest more opportunities for small group collaborative projects in class. When having students assigned to work together in small groups, it can help bring a shy student out of their shell slightly - especially when team up with more extroverted, confident personalities who will want to encourage them.
As a teaching assistant, you can oversee the interactions, encourage, and help guide the teamwork and give the quiet student some prompts when needed. That way, the student can broaden their social skills more and more.
If all your efforts aren’t going as well as you might’ve hoped, why not look to implement non-verbal options like using cue cards to help them articulate their needs and thinking with lines like: ‘I’m thinking’, ‘help, please!’, ‘I’m getting there’ and ‘I’ve got this!’ Discuss this option with your teacher, you can find templates online to suggest.
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