Four Tips for Encouraging Shy Students to Participate in Class

Guest Post: By Mariana Ashley
While class participation may not be particularly important for student success in
grade school, it becomes increasingly critical as students progress to higher
levels of learning. Especially in college, when class participation is actually
a requirement in many classes, it is advisable that students start learning to
speak up in class as early as possible. For shy, but nonetheless intelligent
students, class participation can be especially difficult. As a teacher
however, there are several things you can do to bring a shy child out of his or
her shell. Here are a few tips.

Lead shy students through
discussions until they can handle it on their own.

During classroom discussions, some teachers set up participation on a volunteer basis,
while others will call on students randomly. Both methods have their drawbacks.
Volunteer discussion groups allow shy students to hide, while on-the-spot
discussion groups can be intimidating. The best way is to mix both. Have the
floor open to volunteers, but if you see that a shy student looks like she
wants to say something, call on him or her, and ask her gentle questions about
her responses. The eventual goal is to have every single student participate by
the end of the semester.


 Never overtly criticize their
opinions or answers; simply correct them.

Shy students are often very sensitive as well. While you don’t want to applaud a
response that’s completely wrong, don’t unequivocally shut down a response
either. If the student is wrong, find something to praise about her answer.
Then explain the more correct or valid answer in a rational way.

Create a classroom environment
that is warm and open to discussion.

For some shy students, it’s not so much the teacher that is intimidating. Rather, it’s
the students. Some students can be very argumentative and have a tendency to
“gang up” on a student who is unsure of his own answers. As such, it is
absolutely essential that you devise classroom rules for participation in which
everyone gets equal say and interrupting someone else is prohibited, as are ad
hominem attacks. Try to foster an environment in which students respect each

 If nothing works, call on all
students in a systematic manner.

The best sorts of classroom discussions are ones in which everyone provides well thought
out arguments for a particular position. Of course, in earlier grades this may
not be possible, especially for shy students who have trouble formulating
opinions. Another way to get shy students used to the idea of participating is
to ask one, very specific and straightforward question and have every student
answer. This method helps shy students “get their feet wet,” so to
speak, which prepares them for more fluid, less structured discussions later.
Of course, getting a shy student to speak up in class isn’t ever going to be easy.
The key is to be as encouraging as possible so that quiet students will
eventually develop the confidence they need to succeed later in life. Good




Mariana Ashley is a freelance writer who
particularly enjoys writing about online
. She loves receiving reader feedback, which can be directed to
mariana.ashley031 @gmail.com.


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