How Extroverted Teachers Can Engage Introverted Students

Middle school English teacher Brett Vogelsinger, working at Central Bucks School District outside Philadelphia for more than 20 years, has seen the concepts of introversion and extroversion become more widely understood, according to a report by KQED.

An extrovert by nature, Vogelsinger said it took him “a while to realize that someone can engage rigorously mentally with what’s going on in the classroom, and you might not hear it as a teacher.”

Vogelsinger uses several strategies to draw out introverted students:

  • While discussing themes in a book, each student had a white index card and a yellow index card on their desk. White signals a new idea no one has brough up yet and yellow means a student is building on someone else’s line of thinking. Introverted students usually speak up more when using the index cards.
  • Online message boards are used as an introvert-friendly form of participation throughout the semester.
  • Before discussing a book, carve out several minutes for students to revisit what they wrote and read each other’s responses. “Think time” can be especially helpful for introverted students who may not want to speak on the spot as soon as the teach throws out a question.
  • Create a quarterly self-reflection for students. Encourage students to look at patterns in their homework completion, class participation and assignment feedback before responding to several prompts. One prompt: Engagement and participation are vital to success but can look different to different students. Explain how you participate and engage in class.

 

Vogelsinger has tossed out his notion of an extrovert as the model student. In fact, he has shed the entire concept of a model student. “Now I think I’m much better at seeing the individual students. I’m looking more for growth.”

Today’s classrooms are sometimes noisy and stimulating places to learn, since speaking up often counts toward grades and collaboration is highly valued. But this environment can be draining for introverted students, who may do their best thinking solo or in calmer settings. Strategies that build in think time, encourage students to listen to each other’s ideas, and include options for written responses can help move toward 100 percent participation without making introverts feel cornered, said Vogelsinger.

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