by Christi Wilson
There has been a tremendous amount of research on the biological differences in how the brain works.
Within these studies, researchers have discovered that there are in fact two distinct personality types: introverts and extroverts. One thing is clear: Teaching introverts is different.
In one study conducted at Cornell University, researchers found that introverts and extroverts exhibit fundamental differences with regards to how they process environmental rewards. Unlike extroverts, introverts tend to weigh internal cues more strongly than external motivational cues.
While extroverts may gain comfort and energy from being with and interacting with other people, introverts may find this draining and need time alone to gain energy and recharge. In a classroom of thirty children or more, how can teachers nurture both the introverted and extroverted child when their needs are so different?
Introverts are often people who prefer the quiet. They usually prefer to take their time to process their thoughts and enjoy their solace. Their energy is derived from themselves, and when they are bombarded with stimulation, they feel the need to escape the noise. Introverts are comfortable with and look forward to spending time alone. In her book, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,” Susan Cain examines the premise that introverts are undervalued in a world of extroverts.
Many modern classrooms are designed for the extroverted child, as evidenced by walking in the majority of classrooms and witnessing the hustle and bustle of movement of many children. This is an especially important reason why teachers need to keep in mind the needs of introverted students. It will take time for introverted students to warm up to a new group of students, and there should be plenty of time given at the beginning of the year for all students to get acquainted with each other.
A large portion of the school day in the classroom is centered around group activities. Teachers can balance the time spent between whole group, small group and independent activities. These students are able to process their thoughts and work on tasks independently. This skill should be valued, because quite often this is a difficult skill for most to endure. Introverted students should be given an appropriate amount of wait time which gives them time to think quietly before the teacher calls on them, and if the introverted child does raise his or her hand, the teacher should absolutely make a point of calling on them.
Another strategy that is quite effective is to have the class think-pair-share which means that after the teacher asks a question, students turn to their partner sharing their answers with each other rather than having to speak in front of the whole class. Introverted students are great storytellers and most enjoy reading books. There should be time spent in the classroom where students can write in their journals, read quietly, and participate in small group book discussions — often referred to as literature circles.
Most importantly, teachers should remember not to attempt making introverted students turn into extroverts. Their independence, quiet thinking, and happiness being comfortable with themselves should be praised and cultivated.
While this is all somewhat overly-generalizing, extroverts are typically energetic, social individuals whose energy source comes from being around other people. They usually have many friends and are enthusiastic. These students know how to express their opinions and enjoy doing so.
Extroverted children thrive with working in collaborative groups and they enjoy class discussions as well. Teachers may also want to encourage these students to study with a buddy as working independently can be a difficult task for them to carry out. They may also thrive in an environment that allows for learning centers, collaborative games, small and whole group discussions, as well as activities that include drama or acting things out.
These students will likely enjoy working on group projects, presentations, debates and opportunities to have the spotlight centered on them in the classroom.
Regardless of the number of introverted and extroverted students in a classroom, teachers should keep in mind that a well-balanced classroom will be one that should benefit most children. Giving children the opportunities to work independently and in small and whole groups, time for reflection, and time for movement will allow children to learn from each other.
Respecting a child’s innate personality is important, and recognizing each child’s strengths will not only help build their self-confidence, but it will also help manage an effective and supportive classroom environment.
Christi Wilson is a credentialed teacher of highly gifted students in northern Nevada. She has eleven years of classroom teaching experience and is a contributor to several websites, including OnlineSchools.com. As mother of three busy boys, she knows how important it is to keep students engaged in the classroom and interested in a lifetime of learning; image attribution flickr user isafmedia and nist6ss