Today I have one word for you; modeling.
In Reading Recovery, we learn about how powerful modeling can be while teaching a new reader to navigate the wonderful world of books. We model, then pull back and support, we guide, and then we release the student for successful independent practice.
I believe this same form of modeling should be used in the classroom to leverage the strengths of introverts and extroverts to be the most successful they can be. In using each type of student as a model, many different behaviors can be transferred from one to another.
For starters, many teachers would say they want all students to participate in classroom discussions. As you have read in previous postings, all students range in disposition. There are extremes on both ends of the spectrum. There are students that may always dominate conversation and there are students who may never join a conversation. I am suggesting we use these students as models for one another and come to a balance in the classroom where everyone is participating.
Have your extroverts model what it may look and sound like to share an idea with the rest of the class. Have them role play with yourself and other students so that your more reserved introverts can reflect on the behaviors they notice. Break into smaller groups with an extroverted leader in each group and allow introverted students to practice by following the model of the more extroverted students. It sounds simple but for many students, even a small group will be a struggle. You can provide scaffolding and support those students that may need some more modeling and practice in sharing their ideas.
Remember, not all students NEED to discuss to be engaged in learning. Susan is very quiet in meetings – often times being mistaken for not paying attention. I can vouch for her, she is a silent thinker but she is ALWAYS thinking. So remember this when trying to leverage more out of your introverts, they are paying attention, it’s just not loud.
There are other behaviors an extrovert or introvert can model for one another. Extroverts could model behaviors in asking for help, or asking to join a group in play at recess time, asking to join a table at lunch, or some of the other circumstances at school where it takes a little to put yourself out there and take a risk with friendships. Introverts can help model what it looks like to give wait time, thinking time, time that often extreme extroverts use to impulsively act or answer without putting time into their actions. Introverts could also model many of the more quiet behaviors that extroverts are often mistakenly punished for. I don’t say this to suggest that we try to force our extroverts to quiet down, and act like introverts, but to practice what it is like so they can begin to build and feel empathy for their fellow classmates. Likewise with our introverts, they don’t need to switch and be loud and impulsive, however, they too could take some time to practice and feel empathy for those of us that need to have some noise, or discussion in order to do our best thinking.
At the end of the day we are teachers because we love our students and hope each and every day brings new learning and new experiences their way. We want to do whatever it is, in our power, to help them thrive and leverage every bit out of them that we can. My suggestions in this post are to provide just a few easy ways to help build relationships among some students that may find it otherwise difficult to connect. I hope to build empathy on both sides and hope we can find more ways to leverage our learners in new and innovative ways.