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Motivating the Quiet Ones...

Quora Question: How can a teacher support and motivate shy and quiet students who show signs of intelligence in the classroom?

It is important that all students have a voice especially the shy or quiet ones that are often dominated by other students during small group work. Here are some ways I helped my quieter students be heard.

First a Story from the Classroom:

I was running a Socratic Seminar in my classroom and had 3 table teams working at one time. One student who was always quiet in class spoke so well and so eloquently when it was his turn that the entire group of students stood up and gave him a standing ovation. The look on his face was one of pure joy and amazement. He was clearly not expecting that response. He had totally prepared for the seminar, had copious notes in his book (Silent Spring) and made excellent points. I was quite moved by this. I had never heard him speak in class until that moment when he had his “turn” to speak.

In order to achieve this independence with 3 teams running their own Socratic Seminar we did our first one as a whole-class. In this way my students learned the process. Points are earned by speaking from a resource. This means that all students must speak up in their team in order to get credit. One person in each team keeps track of points earned. To be completely fair this is a true round table discussion where students speak in a clockwise order. No-one is allowed to speak out of turn or interrupt another student. This is why my very quiet student finally spoke. It was his turn and no-one spoke over him. Once students learn the process and that a Socratic Seminar is not a “free for all” they love it and get very good at it. This is one way to help quieter students learn to speak up.

Strategies to help quieter or shy students feel comfortable speaking in class:

  1. Run a Socratic Seminar (must be well-structured).

  2. Run a well-structured debate (clear times to speak with time limits). (I have an example guide for running a debate on my TPT store if you want to see how to run a structured debate)

  3. Run your small group discussions in a Round Table format.

  4. When calling on a whole class for answers to questions, call on an entire table team, not an individual, and then rotate which students will speak up for the next team answer.

  5. When students have presentations instead of presenting to the entire class have them present to other table teams. This lowers their anxiety and increases the chances that a shy student will speak up.

Final Thought: ALL students deserve to have a voice in class. Quiet students will open up if they feel less pressure/anxiety because they are not speaking in front of the entire class. They need baby steps to build to that stage but should have some pressure to speak within smaller groups or when representing a team response.

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