How to Engage Shy and Quiet Students in The Classroom? 9 Top Tips.

Published: April 18th, 2023

All students learn differently, and no matter the school year or the size of the class, there are always going to be students who are a bit more reluctant to speak up and share their thoughts. Despite the fact they probably have profound ideas to bring to the table, sometimes, kids don’t feel comfortable sharing them in front of everyone.

Not everyone in your class is going to be an outgoing extrovert – and that’s okay. While there are measures you can take to make sure everyone in your class feels comfortable, some students will naturally contribute ideas more than others. There are, however, plenty of student engagement strategies you can use to make sure these quieter students are still engaged and learning, even if they’re not speaking up all the time.

So, how do you get these students involved? Here are our top tips for how to engage shy and quiet students in the classroom.

1. Have private chats

Talking in front of the whole class can be intimidating for some – and even talking in front of a small group can be too much for some students to handle. Sometimes, it may not be shyness that’s preventing them from talking. They could suffer from a stutter or another social barrier that makes keeping quiet seem like the best option.

Therefore, it’s important to have one-on-one interactions with those students that are showing a particularly strong reluctance to participate. To avoid making the quiet students feel singled out, you could organise a daily meeting with a single pupil per day and try to make it around your whole class over some time.

Through these private chats, you can glean whether the child is shy or otherwise disengaged – in which case, you can devise an action plan for engaging your disengaged students. Perhaps a friendly private chat will give them the confidence to discuss any social or academic problems with you. Getting this information early on allows you to tailor your teaching approach, if necessary – giving the student the best possible chance at engaging with their work.

2. Get to know your students

Another benefit of having private chats with your students is that you get to know them better. Through casual chats, you could pick up likes and interests that can be related back to the coursework. By mentioning things that relate to shy students, you may be able to get them involved in more open discussions.

Alternatively, you could go around the class at the start of each lesson with a question unrelated to the coursework. This could be a favourite Netflix show, a hobby, or anything that most students would be comfortable discussing. By encouraging open conversation about casual topics, it might help to boost student engagement amongst the quieter pupils, while also making sure your lessons are as relevant as possible to your audience. You might also want to think about how you can use technology in the classroom to engage your students.

This general class discussion could also help form bonds between students through mutual interests and likes. It gives shy students a better chance to get to know their classmates, which could help build their confidence in talking in front of them.

3. Class presentations

Class presentations are another way of guaranteeing student engagement. As long as you give students sufficient time to prepare for their classroom talk, it should be a positive way of encouraging students to get involved.

It enables students to discuss their ideas openly and uninterrupted. As mentioned before, the fear of being interrupted can put some students off getting involved in classroom discussions. Having an allotted time for a presentation eliminates this hurdle.

However, this does not mean that all students will enjoy hosting a class presentation. It’s worth addressing quieter students and asking whether they are comfortable delivering a presentation. Students with stutters, for example, may be reluctant to do so. 

You know your class best – if you think it will be beneficial to get everyone standing up in front of the interactive whiteboard presenting, you can plan out ways to make this less intimidating. A presentation doesn’t need to be on a complicated topic from the curriculum. Instead, getting your students to present about anything they like – whether that’s a hobby, their pets, or even something really silly – can take this fear factor away.

4. Acknowledge that presenting can be scary

For some students, the thought of contributing to a class discussion alone is enough pressure. To make introverted students feel as comfortable as possible, you should avoid applying unnecessary pressure to them.

Don’t announce that you’ll pick on a ‘shy person’ if nobody in your class is participating. Additionally, don’t single out quieter students to answer complicated questions. Most of the time, there’s a reason for a lack of engagement. You could potentially be making the situation worse for them by highlighting their reluctance to the class.

Not only could this cause the shy student to avoid talking on that day even more, but you may have lost the opportunity to ever get them talking. A teacher’s role is to be encouraging, patient, and kind. If it takes you a whole year to get your quietest student to answer a single question – that’s okay!

5. Turn and talk

This one may seem obvious, but it’s a surefire way of getting quiet students to talk with their peers. Plus, it involves little preparation. All you’ve got to do is present your students with a coursework-related question and ask them to discuss it with their peers. This allows your students to connect – it also gets the quieter students talking.

As students discuss the question, you can walk around the tables and listen in on snippets of the conversation. While doing so, you can ensure that both of the students are talking and that the discussion isn’t one-sided.

Without the pressure of speaking in front of the whole class, students may be more comfortable developing their own ideas through conversation.

It would be a good idea to introduce fixed discussion pairs early on in the term. This will help build the confidence of students and help quiet students to engage from the start. Later, you could expand these into a ‘pair square’. This is when you allow two groups of discussion partners to come together and chat through the topic as a foursome.

By gradually expanding discussion groups, you could help quiet students become slowly more comfortable with chatting to their peers.

6. Pair introverted students together

Sometimes, introverted students may be intimidated by the extroverted students in your class. Even if you break the class up into smaller groups, the louder and more confident students will likely dominate the conversation.

Some students may not want to talk if they feel they’re just going to be cut off by a louder student. Or, they may rely on confident students to do the talking – so long as somebody is creating a discussion, they don’t have to.

So, instead of organising student groups at random, you can carefully curate discussion groups to encourage conversation – for example by grouping quieter students together. In the shy student groups, it’s less likely that there’s going to be one person dominating the conversation. This may push shy students out of their comfort zones and encourage them to talk more .

Quiet students may be able to relate to each other more, which could give them the confidence to talk in front of each other. These introverted groups create a safe space of sorts for quiet students to develop their ideas verbally.

7. Write before speaking

Talkative students thrive in class discussions because they’re comfortable developing ideas on the spot. Although quieter students will most likely have good ideas, they may not be comfortable discussing them on the spot. They may feel that their ideas are only half-formed and aren’t worth talking about to a wide audience.

A key part of engaging quiet students is to allow them time to think about and analyse their ideas. This way, they’ll likely be more confident to publicise it in a broad setting.

The best way to do this would be to give your class a discussion point to write about. Allocate roughly ten minutes of quiet writing time to your teaching schedule. This will be sufficient for students to make their ideas more cohesive, and come up with limitations and improvement ideas.

After the ten minutes, you could go around the class and get each student to discuss what they wrote. This ensures that everyone in the class gets a chance to speak.

Not only will this help quiet students, but it could also improve the standard of class discussions. With everyone developing their ideas before speaking, a livelier classroom debate could take place.

8. Ask simple questions first

If you’re looking to draw reluctant students into wider class discussions, start by asking them simple questions, or even something you’re sure they know the answer to. Sometimes, the biggest barrier for students is the first sentence. The thought of having to speak up for the first time could put a student off talking at all. Once they get over this hurdle, they may be comfortable expressing themselves further.

A simple, straightforward question is the best way to pull quiet students in. An easy question that they can definitely answer will help them to speak more as the class goes on – as long as it’s not condescendingly easy.

Once they speak up and hear their voice in the discussion, they’ll hopefully realise that speaking up isn’t so bad. They’ll likely feel that their opinion is valued.

9. Use interactive display technology

One of the best ways to engage quiet students is to introduce active learning. This can be achieved by investing in interactive display technology. The Promethean ActivPanel allows you to split your screen with your students, allowing for easy collaborative learning. You can even share your screen with students at home if your class involves online teaching.

Request a demo today to see how Promethean ActivPanel can encourage students of all confidence levels to get involved with your class!

FAQs

How do I get a quiet class to talk?

If you find that your whole class is unwilling to participate in classroom discussions, you might want to introduce active learning strategies. It’s not good enough to simply stand and deliver the lesson lecture-style, particularly in the modern classroom. Move away from solely relying on writing task, instead introducing interactive whiteboard games, presentations, outdoor fieldwork and hands-on activities. 

How do you get introverted students involved in the class?

Introverted students may be more reluctant to speak up in class than other children, and this could be for a number of reasons. Introverted students may respond well to more praise and encouragement, if they struggle with confidence. As a teacher you can highlight when an introverted student has done well. This can either be done verbally in front of the class or by leaving enthusiastic comments on their submitted work.

Engage introverted students with an interactive display

Some students simply don’t want to verbally engage, and that’s fine. You’d struggle to find a class full of extroverted students. However, there are means of encouraging them to interact with other students. You could try a turn-and-talk approach or encourage active learning with an interactive display.

Ask simple questions and arrange student presentations, but don’t pressure a quiet student to speak! Interactive technology can also be very useful for student engagement by bringing in interactive games or digital assignments. If you’re looking to engage quiet students using an interactive display, then request a demo for the Promethean ActivPanel today.

Do you want to learn more about student engagement? Check out some additional resources below!

What is student engagement?
12 Student Engagement Strategies
How to Engage Students Without Relying Solely on Technology
How Do You Keep Students Engaged at the Beginning and End of a Lesson?
The benefits of reflection in education
How to Engage Disengaged Students
How to Engage Students in a Hybrid Learning Class
How To Engage University Students
How to Engage International Students