Making friends in school can be a huge challenge for some students. Elementary teachers must help with socialization for the overall success of the child. When you see a girl or boy student who is isolated, it's time to bring them into the group.
How do I draw out a girl who is a loner...and lonely?
I have a very quiet student, a girl, who appears to be a loner. She doesn't play much at recess. She tends to read or maybe swing by herself. She isn't the subject of teasing that I can see, and she does have some conversations.
In class, she rarely raises her hand. This is a very full classroom, and regretfully, my time is limited with her, but I feel a need to do something. I'm looking for suggestions on how to draw her out more, to teach her social skills of engagement.
I'd swear you're describing a young lady in my classroom this year!
This is more of an individual management issue rather than a classroom management challenge. In this case, I would start with calling her parents first and sharing your observations about her social interactions.
Ask them who her friends in school are, or who they have been in prior grades. Also ask the parents for ideas on how to draw the student out.
Believe me, the parents will know that their child is somewhat socially isolated. They will also be very grateful that a teacher is taking an interest in helping her through this difficult transition.
Then talk to the student. Share what you have noticed but don't get into a heavy conversation...just make her aware that you are interested and that you are available to talk through any problem she may be having with friends.
It's very important to not assume that "normal" for her should be the same thing you see in other kids' interactions. Some people simply prefer a little quiet time every day, even if all the rest of the kids are running around and throwing balls at recess.
The point is to help her achieve what she wants as far as social interaction goes, not what adults think she needs.
And now, we get to the behind-the-scenes work that you can do to help.
As the ultimate leader of her immediate social group (your classroom), you are in an ideal position to draw her into the middle of the crowd. It's almost certain that she is self-conscious about exposing herself to possible negative attention by speaking up.
Everyone wants to belong
You can help out by simply noticing any significant classroom assignments she completes and bringing them to the attention of the rest of class in a positive way. If you've properly set up your classroom community, it is guaranteed that she will receive positive feedback when you raise her profile in this way.
It will take a few months, but after a time, it will settle into her subconscious that she is in an accepting and friendly group and she will gradually lose her fear of speaking up...and of raising her hand.
It's amazing to watch a child blossom when she really feels that she is part of a close-knit, supportive community. It is definitely worth the extra effort.
If you do have access to "student response systems" (hand-held clickers), they can be a great tool for getting responses from all students...even those who are hesitant to raise their hands.
I have a video on this page that covers their use in my classroom.
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