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April 13, 2005

Tips & Tricks - Getting Shy Students To Speak!


Have you ever had one of those classes when it seems that silence is the rule of the day? Or maybe you just have a class that is full of shy students, and some days you feel as if you are pulling teeth just to get them to speak!

You know how it goes:

"So, Josie, How was your day today?" "Fine." "Tell me what you did in the morning." "Ate breakfast." "Okay, how about this afternoon?" "Ate lunch." "Did you eat anything interesting?" "No."

See what I mean? Luckily, there are . . .

. . . some tips that can help you get those shy students talking! I have recently inherited a class like the one I described above. It has eight students, and they are all extremely shy. In a one-on-one situation, I can communicate pretty well with them, but they seem to close down when talking to each other, or in front of one another.

Here are some of the things I did right away, and the mood seems to have changed a little, although we've got a long way to go!

First of all, they were seated in rows, and I changed the seating arrangement to a circle. This way, they have to look at each other in the eyes (or at least in that general direction!), and it seems to help them relax a little.

Another thing I've found is that most of their comments were directed at me. For instance, if one of them asked another a question, and they didn't understand it, they would turn to me and ask me to repeat it. I simply tell the student to ask the other speaker to repeat the question. Likewise, if I am asked to express my opinion during one of their discussions, I will generally just turn the question around and say something like, "I don't know, what do you think about it?"

Finally, I've had them stand up a few times and socialize with each other. I assign them a specific task--such as finding out the second names of everyone in the class--and then step back and let them experiment. Seems to get them out of their shell for a while--at least until the start of the next class!

Have you ever taught a class like this? If so, I'd love to hear how you overcame the student's hesitancy to speak. I would love to liven up this class!

Until next time,


Posted by msimmons at April 13, 2005 01:30 AM

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