Combating Shyness in the Classroom

“Deep rivers run quiet.”
― Haruki Murakami, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World

Bridging the Gap for Shy Students

It’s a situation that most of us are familiar with at some time in our lives. An awkward conversation, slight intimidation in the workplace, or an introverted disposition can sometimes lead many people to regard themselves as shy people. However, shyness is a considerable hurdle for many students whose assessment in the classroom is largely based on performance. Intelligence often has nothing to do with whether an individual is shy, however, many studies show that shy students score lower in class than their peers.

In a previous blog post by Planting Seeds Tutoring & Test Prep, Introverts in the Classroom: Helping Quiet Kids Succeed, we looked at how introverted students can be supported in a classroom run by extroverts. In this post, we’re going to look at how teachers, tutors, and parents can work together with chronically shy students to bring out the intelligence already nestled within.


Tips for Secondary Educators

Overcoming Quiet

In our previous post, we stated that “20-40% of a student’s classroom grade is attributed to class participation.” That’s a considerable amount of a student’s grade that is solely based on whether he or she is willing to speak up or raise a hand in class. Oftentimes, shy students experience deep-set anxiety over performing in front of their peers and can sabotage their own attempts at participating.

Educators and parents must take action to approach shy students on key points of behavior early on before the student succumbs to performance-based phobia, which can significantly impact his or her life.

Supporting Shy Students

Much like the introverted student (note that being shy and an introvert is not always synonymous) shy students must be allowed ample time to consider all options before answering questions in class. Creating low-risk environments in class and in group tutoring sessions can provide shy students the edge they need to boost their confidence. The Introverts in the Classroom blog mentions a few great options for teachers and tutors alike to reduce anxiety in shy students like Quality Think Time, Think-Pair-Share, and Downtime for students who do not wish to spend recess amongst their peers.

Modeling, Positive Reinforcement, and Intervention

Additional methods of combating shyness and social anxiety in the classroom are modeling, positive reinforcement, and intervention. A shy student who lacks strong communication skills will often be unable find the confidence to ask questions when he or she does not understand a lesson, and thus can fall behind. Educators and parents may need to model to a shy student what may come naturally to many of us. Social interactions are particularly difficult for shy students and they may feel unequipped to handle social interactions. If a student does not often look newcomers in the eye, then an educator or parent may need to stress eye contact with that student and model it when appropriate. Of course, methods of modeling will vary and the goal of modeling is independence.

Another social hurdle for shy students is seeking answers when questions arise. A shy student may not feel the confidence to speak up when he or she has a question regarding the material and quietly falls behind. Parents can reach out to teachers and request a syllabus in order to prepare their child ahead of time when new material is presented in the classroom. Schools often provide interventional strategies for students who are falling behind, and parents can work with a school’s Occupational Therapist to find out methods of intervention. That’s where a tutor also comes in handy.


Modeling in the Classroom: Elementary Students

In the video below, we see a teacher providing a low-risk situation for younger students to discuss thinking methods prior to sharing questions to the class. This is modeling in action!

At times, when a shy student does speak up, if he or she is punished for acting or speaking out of turn, then the confidence that student had will quickly deflate. Positive reinforcement is when a certain behavior performed by a child (or an adult) is rewarded, usually by an individual in an authoritative position (but not always!). This frequently appears in class when a “good job!” is shared by a teacher to a student’s awaiting ears. Teachers often use positive reinforcement to modify behaviors presented at an early age which can be detrimental to a student’s success, like shyness. If a student who is shy shares something with the class, the teacher may go out of his or her way to reinforce that behavior, increasing the likelihood that child will repeat that good social behavior. Parents and educators can work together to positively reinforce behavior that combats a student’s shyness.

Contact Planting Seeds Tutoring Today

At Planting Seeds Tutoring, an Austin, South, and Central Texas-based tutoring company, we are committed to ensuring that every student we work with has access to the most
comprehensive tools and strategies to ensure that they are well-positioned to be successful in the classroom, regardless of whether they are shy or extroverted. To learn more about the full range of services we offer, visit our blog and our website and follow us on Facebook. You can also contact Planting Seeds Tutoring with your questions at (972) 342-6496, or via email at