Helping Introverts Thrive in the Classroom

Helping Introverts Thrive in the Classroom

Posted on November 8, 2013. Filed under: Helping Introverts Thrive in the Classroom |

introvert chart


Contrary to what most people think, an introvert is not simply a person who is shy. In fact, being shy has little to do with being an introvert! According to Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Introversion is really about having a preference for lower stimulation environments. It is just a preference for quiet, for less noise, for less action.

Introverts are a minority in the regular population (25%), but a majority in the gifted population (50%).  (Some studies indicate that introversion increases with IQ.  Others indicate that the proportion of introverts increases with educational level). School is not a positive experience for many gifted introverts.  It can be loud, crowded, superficial, boring, over-stimulating, and focused on action, not reflection.

Introverts are deep thinkers, who tend to engage in inner dialogue about the material being taught. They are often the student who remains quiet during most of the class discussion only to add a profound insight at the end. Teachers often think these students are unmotivated or that they do not understand the material. The truth is the introverted student needs more time for inner dialogue and quiet thinking. Introverts love to learn, but prefer depth of a topic rather than a breadth of many topics.

Many teachers try to “help” the introvert to become more social, more gregarious, more outgoing,“friendlier”,  and have more fun – which very often comes from the perspective of the extraverted teacher.  Rather than trying to change the introvert, we should try to support them. Several strategies teachers can use include: journaling, collaborative learning activities, tiered instruction, dramatics or role-playing, book clubs, independent studies, and small group instruction (moderate amounts). 

Introverted students benefit from:

~  wait time – significantly important to their learning process
~  warning about what they are expected to do
~  activities with minimal noise and stimulation

Quiet Quiz – at the link below you will find an informal 12 question quiz, adapted from Quiet by Susan Cain, based on characteristics of introversion commonly accepted by contemporary researchers.

Susan Cain offers a wealth of useful advice for teachers and parents of introverts. QUIET should be shared with anyone who cares about how people think, work, and get along.  It should be required reading for introverts (or their parents/teachers) who could use a boost to their self-esteem. I highly recommend this book for all educators, it will make you think differently about the way you teach. 

Christine Fonseca has written a new book entitled, Quiet Kids: Helping Your Introverted Child Succeed in an Extroverted World. Written for parents, her book guides the reader to understand the nature of introversion and provides specific strategies to teach children how to thrive in a world of extroverts. I recommend this book for parents, but it is also a great read for teachers who would like to learn more about these unique learners. 

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