How to encourage shy pupils

13th June 2008 at 01:00
In a busy class of 30-plus pupils it's easy to miss one or two shy ones
In a busy class of 30-plus pupils it's easy to miss one or two shy ones. But even they can be encouraged to take part.

Shyness is linked to a lack of confidence. Shy pupils don't want to draw attention to themselves for fear of standing out, either because they might get things wrong or in case they appear too clever.

Try a no-hands policy and instead ask named individuals direct questions. Ask things that you know the shy person can answer. When they do, make sure they are praised and ensure you provide a safe learning environment where wrong answers are never ridiculed.

Talk to shy pupils one-on-one and reassure them that speaking up in class is safe. Find out who their friends are and ask them to encourage shy pupils to answer when they are asked questions. Give advance warning that you are going to ask them a question, this gives them time to prepare an answer. It is possible to overcome shyness, but it's not easy for those pupils. Supportive teachers and classmates can make a difference.

James Williams is a lecturer in education at the University of Sussex

TIPS FOR THE TIMID

- Make it clear that your classroom is a safe environment for expressing ideas and answers - even wrong ones.

- Try a no-hands policy and instead ask named individuals questions.

- Talk to the pupil to let them know that you appreciate their input.

- Find out about the strengthsskills that shy pupils have so you can ask them to do things knowing they can cope.

- Give them advance warning of the question you will ask them.

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