Teaching shy students can be challenging and frustrating. Many teachers have mentioned how difficult it is often for them to help these students improve across the four main skills in a balanced way. This undoubtedly requires some extra effort and patience, even more so when teaching online, but it is also very rewarding to see a shy student finally opening up and how grateful they are when they become aware of their own progress.
Below you will find some tips on how to deal with shy students. We hope this is useful!
- Be patient
- Be positive
- Be welcoming
- Be encouraging
- Be casual
- Show compassion; walk in the student’s shoes.
- Listen actively.
- Get to know them: Find out what they are interested in and see if there is anything noteworthy happening in their home country.
- Work on being genuinely interested in what they are talking about. English teacher Chad Hansen recommends the book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie.
- Stick to the lesson plan and work on activities that have more structured exercises and fewer fluency activities.
- If it is a child, get a toy to talk to them. They respond better once they know that the teacher has ‘a friend’ helping them teach the class!
- Give specific and regular positive feedback to demonstrate the student’s ability and progress.
- Experiment with different types of self-study activities. For example, ask the student to use apps like Vocaroo to record themselves speaking about a topic and send it to you for feedback, rather than asking them to speak freely in the lesson.
- Gradually build up the student’s speaking time each lesson as their confidence grows. English teacher Odessa May Fontenelle often has success with "Weird Foods from Around the World". What food you would and wouldn't try is an engaging topic that almost everyone will have an opinion about.
- Don’t push them too far; take things slowly.
- Don’t incorporate many speaking activities at first. It could be intimidating.
- Avoid awkward silence. Move on to a different topic or activity if you perceive your student is struggling or not engaged.
- Avoid overcorrecting, especially when it doesn't interfere with intelligibility as this could be detrimental to their self-esteem.
- Don’t forget to mention how much you’re enjoying teaching them and how excited you are to continue helping them reach their learning goals in upcoming lessons. Shy students know they're shy and they can even feel guilty about it.
Our thanks go to:
Marie Richards | English Teacher
Emma Segev | English Teacher
Charlotte Friend | English Teacher
Anonymous | Spanish Teacher
Charly | French Teacher
Chad Hansen | English Teacher
Odessa May Fontenelle | English Teacher
Anonymous | Spanish Teacher