Classroom Strategies

5 Ways to Amplify the Voices of our Introverts

Our incredible #SunchatBloggers group decided to embark on a few group topics, the first one being our “top 5” of anything education related (here’s our top 5 Padlet). I love the opportunity to share blogging ideas and topics with this dedicated and lively group. We recently started a #SunchatBloggers Padlet to show off our favorite blog posts. It was tough to come up with a topic for top 5, and move beyond my current top 5 favorite apps/tools (which also would be fun!).

Lately, introverts are especially on my mind. I moderated #WeirdEd on October 5th and we had an incredible conversation about the myth of introverts and how we can celebrate their value in our world.

The Power of Introverts Ignite
San Diego Summit, October 2016

On October 9, I did my first ever Ignite session at the San Diego GAFE Summit. I had just 5 minutes to inspire attendees with a mini keynote. I decided to take a risk and share my story: I’m an introvert in a very extroverted edtech world, and it’s mentally tough to keep up my energy sometimes. I shared about how introverts process the world internally, while extroverts socialize instead. Our introverted students are less likely to advocate for their own needs, including when they need to work alone and/or in a quieter environment. I feel encouraged because many people I look up to have told me that this is a message that needs to be shared and spread.

I reflected on my own classroom and experience as a learner to think about what has worked for me. Here are five strategies and tools to help address the needs of the introverts in our classrooms:

1. Shift classroom discussions and questions onlineUse tools such as TodaysMeet or Google Classroom discussions to engage all learners. Allowing students to use an online discussions with threaded or @ replies gives plenty of room for introverts to enter the conversation when they are comfortable. Additionally, using an online discussion for students to ask content and class specific questions allows more students to speak up; it also empowers students to take ownership of their learning and help each other. If you’re ready to take a bigger leap with students, start blogging as a class or individual student blogs. I’m just starting this process with my 8th grade AVID students, and hoping to use blogging in science in the next year (2017-2017 goal?).

2. Provide introvert-friendly workspaces
In and around your classroom, create distinct workspaces with different working guidelines. Designate a large group work zone, a small or partner group zone, and/or an individual work zone. I’m in California, so I’m lucky we generally have good weather so we can expand our work area outside to the hallway (unlike all you East Coast friends, our schools are generally not one building with interior hallways). Often inside my room is the louder group work area, and outside in the “Venturino Zone” is for quiet work. The “Venturino Zone” is my pre-set boundaries between my classroom door and the poles at the end of my classroom.

3. Build digital collaboration skills
Collaboration and group work does not have to happen face-to-face, or even in real time. Digital collaboration isn’t a less valuable form of collaboration; it is just another way for students to work together. My students are able to quietly work together on projects, and those with quieter voices are still able to share their ideas. Additionally, introverts will feel less social exhaustion when they are not required to interact as frequently. As an introverted teacher in the edtech community, most of the work I do and projects I’m working on happen asynchronously and through collaborative platforms such as Docs. Furthermore, last February, some of my 7th grade AVID students and Rosy Burke’s 5th graders collaborated on the NASA Cassini essay contest. They used Docs to introduce themselves, brainstorm, write their essay, and edit their work. On the last work period, our students were able to quickly conference using to meet and share final ideas. It was such a cool experiences for all of us!

4. Use sufficient wait time
According to a 1972 study by Mary Budd Rowe, teachers rarely wait longer than 1.5 seconds after asking a question before calling on students for responses. She found that when teachers wait 3 or more seconds, there is an increase in students volunteering, decrease in “I don’t know” answers, and an increase in quality of responses. For introverts especially, wait time is critical for them to process their ideas and formulate a response. In grad school, we learne to wait 5 seconds. I was in a good habit in my first couple years of actually counting to 5 in my head. Recently, I’ve tried to bring back the habit. I’m not perfect, but I’m working on it.

5. Allow for students to choose how they show learning
Give students an objective or essential question as a starting point, and empower them to pick a tool or method to prove they learned. Providing students choice does not mean a free-for-all where students can do whatever they want, whenever they want. Use a menu of options or a HyperDoc to scaffold the choice-making process by suggesting apps or tools for students to use in their task. I’ve found that my students are more engaged and complete better quality work when they are given a few options for a product.

I’m thankful to spread the message and be an advocate for introverts in the world. And, I’m especially grateful that I can use my blog to share my own voice, which I wouldn’t otherwise speak up to share.

So I leave you with this: How will you empower all voices in your classroom?

7 thoughts on “5 Ways to Amplify the Voices of our Introverts”

  1. As a fellow introvert, I truly appreciate this post. When you give an introvert time to think and reflect and an outlet within their comfort zone to express themselves they will share some of the most thoughtful wonderful things with you. Thanks for shining a light in this topic Mari.


  2. Great suggestions and reminders! The lovely thing about my class is that it attracts lots of introverts (for various reasons), and I need to be intentional about creating an environment that builds on their strengths. Action step for today: work on giving more wait time!


  3. Such an important post! Thanks Mari. I think your suggestions are super–waittime is so important for students of all ages! I am going to see about the digital collaboration you mention for my graduate students. We collaborate constantly, but not digitally. Challenge with adults is, sometimes, reluctance to use the technology. We shall see.
    Way to go with IGNITE. I feel your pain and enthusiasm–I did one earlier this year. What a rush!


  4. I recently decided that I am an introvert with extroverted tendencies. While I love face to face discussion, it wears me out sometimes. Important to acknowledge that my students may feel the same way! I've used TodaysMeet and Padlet to allow students to respond to reading material. My sixth graders LOVED it. I loved being able to return to the discussion and reread what had been said.


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