September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

How to Encourage and Engage Shy Students

Posted: Friday, March 1st, 2013

by Amanda L. Smith

Shyness has no single definition, but it’s generally described as a feeling of uncomfortableness in social situations in ways that interfere with our ability to enjoy ourselves, to perform at the level we’re capable of or, that cause us to avoid social situations altogether.  It can come from a variety of sources such as disappointment from earlier childhood experiences, having predisposition to anxiety, or due to learning disabilities that cause difficulties with reading social cues. Since learning is clearly a social activity, it’s important for us to help students overcome this potential obstacle. Getting students to realize that shyness is a feeling more than it is a personality trait will give them hope that they can master their feelings and learn to muster courage when desired. 

So what can a teacher due to help their students deal with their shyness?  First, normalizing shyness in the classroom and keeping it in a positive light can provide a safe environment for learning.  Second, making even little contacts with students everyday can make them feel more connected to their peers, teacher, and learning environment.  This can be as simple as a smile, a morning handshake or high-five, or a verbal acknowledgement.  Finally, give shy students a classroom job to do.  These can be a great way to help “break the ice” between shy students and their peers. Some job ideas are door monitor, paper monitor, line leader, or trash collector.  Of course, different levels of shyness within each child need to be considered, as to not push the child into a classroom job that is too interactive when they are not up to it.

Shy children crave attention just like all your other students, but may dread it at the same time.   A simple but effective way to boost the self-esteem of a shy child is to post their achievements on your classroom bulletin board. Even a short email to the parent of a shy child, (or directly to the child if they are in secondary school), with a simple, “Nice job today!” or, “Thanks for raising your hand and contributing to our discussion!” can give the shy child just enough confidence boosters over time to develop their classroom participation abilities and increase their engagement.

Science can be a particularly daunting subject, especially for your shy students.  From my own experience, I have noticed that students who are particularly shy in science tend to believe they have low aptitude and/or present low self-esteem when it comes to the ability to do well in science.  To reach these students, the science teacher may have to make more effort to get to know these students, and to encourage them to think about the relevancy and real-life connections of what science offers.  Also, with this increased bonding between teacher and student, the shy student will then be more motivated to study science and find small successes in day-to-day activities.  The goal is that over time, the student will be able to respond positively to this encouragement from the teacher and the shyness will slowly be replaced with confidence.

It’s also important to educate parents about shyness and skill development.  Parents can play games with their child at home to encourage and practice social skills, like raising hands to provide answers, reading stories aloud to the parent, (instead of the parent to the child), or putting on plays and skits.  The more the child can practice conquering the feeling of shyness, the more confidence the child will ultimately bring into the classroom setting.

Written by Amanda Smith

Amanda Smith is a science teacher at Wilder’s Preparatory Academy Charter School and a member of CSTA.

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CSTA Is Now Accepting Nominations for Board Members

Posted: Friday, November 17th, 2017

Current, incoming, and outgoing CSTA Board of Directors at June 3, 2017 meeting.

Updated 7:25 pm, Nov. 17, 2017

It’s that time of year when CSTA is looking for dedicated and qualified persons to fill the upcoming vacancies on its Board of Directors. This opportunity allows you to help shape the policy and determine the path that the Board will take in the new year. There are time and energy commitments, but that is far outweighed by the personal satisfaction of knowing that you are an integral part of an outstanding professional educational organization, dedicated to the support and guidance of California’s science teachers. You will also have the opportunity to help CSTA review and support legislation that benefits good science teaching and teachers.

Right now is an exciting time to be involved at the state level in the California Science Teachers Association. The CSTA Board of Directors is currently involved in implementing the Next Generations Science Standards and its strategic plan. If you are interested in serving on the CSTA Board of Directors, now is the time to submit your name for consideration. Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces 2017 Finalists for Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

Posted: Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today nominated eight exceptional secondary mathematics and science teachers as California finalists for the 2017 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

“These teachers are dedicated and accomplished individuals whose innovative teaching styles prepare our students for 21st century careers and college and develop them into the designers and inventors of the future,” Torlakson said. “They rank among the finest in their profession and also serve as wonderful mentors and role models.”

The California Department of Education (CDE) partners annually with the California Science Teachers Association and the California Mathematics Council to recruit and select nominees for the PAEMST program—the highest recognition in the nation for a mathematics or science teacher. The Science Finalists will be recognized at the CSTA Awards Luncheon on Saturday, October 14, 2017. Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Thriving in a Time of Change

Posted: Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

by Jill Grace

By the time this message is posted online, most schools across California will have been in session for at least a month (if not longer, and hat tip to that bunch!). Long enough to get a good sense of who the kids in your classroom are and to get into that groove and momentum of the daily flow of teaching. It’s also very likely that for many of you who weren’t a part of a large grant initiative or in a district that set wheels in motion sooner, this is the first year you will really try to shift instruction to align to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a challenging year – change is hard. Change is even harder when there’s not a playbook to go by.  But as someone who has had the very great privilege of walking alongside teachers going through that change for the past two years and being able to glimpse at what this looks like for different demographics across that state, there are three things I hope you will hold on to. These are things I have come to learn will overshadow the challenge: a growth mindset will get you far, one is a very powerful number, and it’s about the kids. Learn More…

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Written by Jill Grace

Jill Grace

Jill Grace is a Regional Director for the K-12 Alliance and is President of CSTA.

If You Are Not Teaching Science Then You Are Not Teaching Common Core

Posted: Thursday, August 31st, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn 

“Science and Social Studies can be taught for the last half hour of the day on Fridays”

– Elementary school principal

Anyone concerned with the teaching of science in elementary school is keenly aware of the problem of time. Kids need to learn to read, and learning to read takes time, nobody disputes that. So Common Core ELA can seem like the enemy of science. This was a big concern to me as I started looking at the curriculum that my district had adopted for Common Core ELA. I’ve been through those years where teachers are learning a new curriculum, and know first-hand how a new curriculum can become the focus of attention- sucking all the air out of the room. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Tools for Creating NGSS Standards Based Lessons

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Elizabeth Cooke

Think back on your own experiences with learning science in school. Were you required to memorize disjointed facts without understanding the concepts?

Science Education Background

In the past, science education focused on rote memorization and learning disjointed ideas. Elementary and secondary students in today’s science classes are fortunate now that science instruction has shifted from students demonstrating what they know to students demonstrating how they are able to apply their knowledge. Science education that reflects the Next Generation Science Standards challenges students to conduct investigations. As students explore phenomena and discrepant events they engage in academic discourse guided by focus questions from their teachers or student generated questions of that arise from analyzing data and creating and revising models that explain natural phenomena. Learn More…

Written by Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke teaches TK-5 science at Markham Elementary in the Oakland Unified School District, is an NGSS Early Implementer, and is CSTA’s Secretary.