10 ideas for teaching introverts

Do you struggle with ways to help your introverted students?  Do you need ideas for how to reach those students who just don't talk?  Check out this blog post for some great insight and teacher-tested tips for teaching introverted students!

I'm a very introverted person.  I often wonder why I ever thought teaching would be the right career for me!  The noise, the constant talking, the constant PEOPLE.  I go home tired, and all I want is some quiet time.  This was easy before becoming a mother, but as any parent knows, little ones are rarely quiet.

After looking hard at my situation, I realized that my love of peace and quiet has not changed, but sadly, my empathy for other introverts went out the window when I was pressured to meet certain standards, differentiate, incorporate speaking, movement, learning stations, hands-on activities, real-life situations, presentations, and so much more.

When looking at how teaching introverts is different, the first question we need to ask ourselves is if we really understand what it means to be an introvert.  Does it mean the student is shy?  Not always.  Does it mean he/she doesn't like others?  No!  It has to do with how our brains are wired.  An introvert has a nervous system that reacts more to what is going on around him or her, so overstimulation comes easily and the student is often left feeling worn out and in need of quiet after long periods of time with others.  On the other hand, an extrovert feels best with more stimulation, so extroverts feel best when a lot is happening.

I could just see certain students shrink into their chairs when I said we were going to play a game or do a speaking activity, and although that would have been me as a young student, the teacher in me just wanted them to participate.  I struggled a lot with what to do that would meet the demands of my course while respecting the needs of all students.  If you're familiar with my resources and philosophy of teaching a foreign language, you'll know that I think getting students to speak is really important.  So, what can we do when we need students to speak, yet they want to remain quiet?

1.  Assign groups.  

Whether you choose groups ahead of time, number off, or use grouping cards, assigning groups can be a huge help to introverts.  I remember my teacher saying, "Everyone find a partner!" as if that was the easiest thing to do for everyone.  I would get a sinking feeling in my stomach every time.  If only she had seen that this was torturous and just gave us a partner, I'd have loved partner activities!
If you need a way to group kids, my grouping cards make it painless to put kids into groups of 2, 3, 4, or 5.  Check them out here:

Do you need a painless way to group your students?  Do you want to introduce French vocabulary and culture effortlessly?  Check out these cards!

2.  If doing group work, try pairs rather than large groups.

This will allow for your introverts to have some quiet discussion with someone and your more social kids will still get to talk and work collaboratively.  Think, pair, share is a great way to incorporate group work into your class without stressing out an introvert.

3.  Don't insist that students always work in new groups.

I have a really hard time with professional development presenters who come in and say, "Everyone stand up and find someone in the room you don't know."  Umm...no.  I already might not want to be in that meeting, so I surely don't want to have some strange, uncomfortable conversation with someone I don't know.  To me, talking to people I don't know is really hard, and as an adult, I'd rather just not.  I have learned to navigate the expectations of the teaching world which are sometimes set for extroverts, but I don't do my best work in this environment.  We need to remember that some of our students are this way.  Do we want them to learn the concept we are working on?  If so, we need to understand that some kids will shut off when they are socially uncomfortable.

Intoverted students have a hard time with group work.

4.  Give them a quiet place to work.

The constant noise and over-stimulation of a classroom can be over-whelming for an introvert.  My favorite teacher let me go to the library to work during independent work time, and I was able to do so much better.  Even a quiet corner away from others is a nice option to have.  If neither of these is an option, allow the introverts to sit on the sides or in the corners.  Sitting in the middle of the classroom is a lot of stimulation and can be really uncomfortable.

5.  If you have younger kids, allow them to read or play board games during recess.  

Not all kids want to run around and play games at recess.  For some kids, they will recharge the best by having quiet time.  If you want or need all kids to go outside, you could have a place where kids could sit and read or do a quiet activity.

Introverts often need quiet time during the day. Allow some quiet time during recess.

6.  Challenge your introverts to participate by raising their hands when they really want to share, and then make sure to call on them!

As teachers, we know that some students raise their hands every time we ask a question.  They may not know the answer every time, but they will raise their hands regardless.  On the other hand, the introvert may never raise his/her hand.  If you want to encourage them to speak, you could challenge them to raise their hands a certain number of times per week, but make sure that you do call on them when they do!  It's very easy to call on the same kids, so make an effort to give everyone a chance.

7.  Don't base their participation score on how much they speak.  

Is there another way to show that they are participating?  Active listening, maybe?  Good effort during partner time?  Are they writing reflectively?  These are all ways of participating without waving their hands in the air and speaking for the sake of getting points.

8.  Help them embrace their own personality.

Being introverted does not mean disliking people.  I like people a lot.  It's why I became a teacher.  However, introverts need quiet time in order to recharge their systems.  I feel drained after an entire day with people, yet when I spend a quiet day alone reading, working in my yard, or even working at the computer, I feel peaceful and relaxed.  Liking quiet is not a personality defect, and in fact, many people in the modern world could benefit from a little less stimulation.  Don't try to change an introvert.  You'll likely be amazed by what you see or hear from an introvert if you give him or her the time and space to show understanding.

Take time to talk to connect wsith your introverted students.

9.  Make sure to speak to your introverts each day.

I know this sounds silly, and as teachers, we want to think we speak to every child every day.  However, when I see 150 students a day and the pace is so fast, I have to make the effort to look at each student and greet them at my door.  Even a friendly smile and greeting personally addressed at an introvert will make them feel welcome.  I had teachers who NEVER,  not once, ever, spoke directly to me.  It really was like I didn't exist to them, because I wasn't raising my hand and demanding attention.  Twenty years later, I still remember how it felt to go hours without anyone really noticing me.  Sure, I'm quiet, but I'm not invisible!  I think some teachers would not have even noticed if I never returned to their classes.  Sadly, I've had students tell me that I'm the only person all day who spoke to them.  Imagine if I hadn't made that effort...

10. Dim the lights.

Many people overlook this, but this is another form of over-stimulation.  Those florescent lights are too bright, and they can really do a number on an introvert's nervous system.  As someone who is bothered by the lights, I have found a way to turn off half the lights in my room.  While I have to admit I did this for myself because I got a lot of headaches, I have now spent 13 years with a half-lit classroom, because I have found that all kids really like it.  I am lucky to have windows, so we aren't in the dark, but the natural light is calming for all kids.  Those who need the bright light sit directly under the side that is lit, but otherwise, the rest of the class has always loved the calming effect, and they usually ask to turn them off if I haven't already.

What about you?  Do you have any tips for teaching introverts or anything you wish people understood about what it is like to be an introvert?

5 ways to help your students master avoir and être!

Conjugating French verbs is tricky, but using the right verb is even trickier! Students often confuse avoir and être. Get tips here!

Do your students struggle with avoir and être?  Do you constantly hear things like, "Madame, je suis fini!" or "Pendant le week-end, j'ai allé au cinéma"?  I've taught in three schools with three entirely different groups of students, and these mistakes happened everywhere.  I've talked to French as a second language and French immersion teachers from all over, and they all report having issues with these two verbs.

So, what do we do?

1.  Correct students each time.

I know we want our students to feel encouraged to speak, but allowing these mistakes to happen early on allows the mistakes to settle in the brain that way, and students have a harder time breaking the habit. Worried about discouraging them? You can ask them the question back, using the correct verb. For example, if a student says "Je suis peur" you can ask "Pourquoi tu as peur?" While you're not directly correcting them, you're helping with conversation skills, and you have provided the right verb (for a different subject), and those are both steps in the right direction.

2.  Incorporate speaking into your class.

I'm sure you know that I am a huge believer that we need to integrate a lot of speaking activities in our classrooms.  I love grammar, and I've always enjoyed grammar packets in English and French.  When I learned Spanish, I loved those grammar packets, too.  However, the reality of it is, even if we love grammar, our kids probably do not, so we need to get them speaking and interacting.  It is only through the actual use of the language that we will get them to retain the information correctly.

I love Find Someone Who activities because they are quick and easy to use.  They will provide reinforcement for the already great lessons you have planned.  Best of all, my Find Someone Who resources include printable questions that you can assign as follow up homework or use as a speaking quiz.  You'll also get French and English speaking rubrics!

Find someone who peaking activity for French verbs avoir and être

3.  Have fun with writing.

Something simple that we love to do is use our wipe-off boards and have verb races.  If you have tablets, those work great, too! I break students up into 4 groups, and have one student from each group race to conjugate the verb correctly.  The student who raises his/her board first with the correct answer wins a point for the team. For differentiating between avoir and être, I put cloze sentences in a PowerPoint and I flash one sentence at a time.  If you need some examples of good present tense sentences and a follow-up homework, this avoir ou être activity is one of the most popular items in my store.  It comes in an all-French or in an English version for beginners.

Click here to check out this avoir ou être resource.

Present tense avoir and être worksheet to help students differentiate between these French verbs.

4.  Incorporate technology into your classroom.

Have you checked out Boom Learning yet?  These digital task cards are fun, easy-to-use, and they are self-checking.  If you have students who need extra practice or students who are always finished first, all you need is a computer, a smartphone, or a tablet with a modern browser, and students can practice their grammar concepts on their own!  

                           Digital task cards for French passé composé with avoir and être

Click here to get this FREE fun digital task card set from my Boom Learning store.


5.  Play with dice.

We use dice in my classroom all the time.  I love to play games and have fun in class, and when the kids are having fun, they don't even realize that they are learning!  Plus, they are speaking French, which is super-important!
Here is a quick and easy game you can do with sets of colored dice.  You'll need approximately 10 dice in two different colors.  I use white and blue because that's what I found on sale at the toy store, but any two colors will work.  
You simply write two columns on your board, and in the first column, you'll number from 1-6, then put a subject pronoun next to each number.  In the second column, you'll put an adjective, an age, or something that would finish an avoir or être expression.  
If practicing the passé composé, you'd put a mix of verbs conjugated with avoir and être.  
Here's what it should look like:

Blue die                                  White die
1. je                                         1. 14 ans
2. tu                                        2. faim
3. il/elle/on                               3. intelligent
4. nous                                    4. besoin d'un crayon
5. vous                                    5. grand
6. ils/elles                                6. jeune

Give each group one die of each color. Students roll both dice and conjugate the correct verb needed to complete the sentence.  They can answer orally (my preferred method) or you can have them write on a sheet of paper.  Students take turns for the desired amount of time, and when you think they have had enough practice, you can call on a few students to make complete sentences.

These kinds of drills bring an element of fun into your classes, get students speaking, and best of all, they require very little prep on your part!  

I hope these have been some handy tips.  What do you think?  Are avoir and être more difficult than other verbs?  

                     Help students use avoir and être correctly.