Shy children can feel overwhelmed by group projects in elementary school. Teachers can make the difference between classroom success and isolation.
How do I include a shy student in a group project without overwhelming her?
I am arranging groups of five students each for a class project. One of the students is very shy. How should I help her fit in and contribute?
Watching out for shy children while building their confidence takes a little balance in our approach.
It is great that you know your students well enough to anticipate that this girl may feel overwhelmed in a small group project. Hopefully that also means you have a solid relationship with the shy student as well.
Take the student aside before you set up the groups and begin the project to tell her what it will entail. Explain what she will be responsible for. Then set a goal with which she is comfortable regarding her level of participation.
Perhaps her goal might be to share at least two ideas at every group meeting. Once that is successful, change the goal with her to something more challenging.
Be very mindful of the dynamcis of the group in which this student will be working. Your efforts at classroom management won't be effective unless you make sure that she has at least one other student with whom she is comfortable.
As you are setting the expectations for group work, make sure you address what teamwork should look and sound like. Role play with students before beginning the projects. Set the expectation that part of the job of a team is to include all individuals.
This approach is extremely important for building inclusion for shy children:
They'll be happy to help...if you show them how
Give students the words to say while role playing. For example you might model the following:
"Gosh Janeta, I notice you have been observing and thinking about our project. What are your ideas for how we can get the job done?"
"Wow, Aledre, you are sure excited about the project. That's great. But can you give us a turn to share our thoughts now? We are so excited too!"
Watching shy children blossom and gain confidence among their peers is one of the special benefits of being an elementary teacher. We can do so much to help these kids relax and have fun while learning...and what they learn in our classrooms will set them up to be successful for the rest of their school careers.
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