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Shy child- help!

Discussion in 'Behaviour' started by mandyjayne23, Apr 15, 2012.

  1. Hello,
    I have a very shy child in my class and it is affecting his work as he rarely speaks so he cannot develop his speech or realise if a sentence makes sense. He is an EAL child so English is his second language. I have noticed he is a lot louder and more enthusiastic in the playground and all the other children say that he speaks outside. He seems to have friends so is well liked in the class and dad says he enjoys school. He is having difficulties in maths too but often does not ask for help. This makes it difficult for me to work out where his misconceptions lie as he just answers yes or no. Occasionally he will answer a question but it is usually just a one word answer and he doesn't really expand upon it. I have tried to encourage him with stickers and points and given him a target on his desk where if he speaks in class or asks me for help he gets a sticker. However it doesn't seem to be that successful. Maybe it should be more specific so it is achievable like: I will speak in class 3 times a week. I have sat him next to his friend who he chose to sit next to and who talks lot and I thought might encourage him to talk and I praise him when he does give me answers or participate in lessons.
    Does anyone have any ideas to encourage him to speak more or to boost his confidence to speak in class? His father says he has been like this in nursery, reception and now in year 1 but that he is not like this at home and that he manages the work at home, but in class he is not showing me evidence of this! Dad says his English is now better than his Arabic so it is not that he doesn't know any English.
    Any practical resources/ lessons/ incentives I could use with him would be very much appreciated.
    Thank you
  2. minnieminx

    minnieminx New commenter

    I have all kinds of problems with this sort of thing. Being shy isn't a fault. Being quiet in class isn't a fault. If the child doesn't want to speak then putting lots of pressure on them to do so isn't really going to help.

    I honestly believe the best thing to do is leave him to it. Do lots of pair talk and giving answers that way, so it isn't his answer he gives. If he does put up his hand, then choose him every single time and smile encouragingly, but don't push it. Use individual whiteboards in pairs so he can whisper with a friend, but doesn't have to speak to you.

    Find ways for him to learn and achieve/make progress that don't involve speaking.

    I had a child last year who refused to even answer the register at the start of the year because he was so shy. But with pair talk, whiteboard work and just letting him be him by the end of the year he was answering questions and expanding on them when asked as well.

    I have a little girl this year who chats confidently about work with her 1:1 ECC and RQ teachers, but barely speaks to me in the classroom. However she chats away happily to me and to her friends on the playground. She just finds the whole teacher and class full of children thing a bit scary. She is getting there though and does volunteer short answers and take part in role play and acting.

    Some children are just shy around teachers...
  3. I would ask the dad what techniques he uses at home to encourage conversation with his son. Often it only takes finding what interests a child and once they are on a topic of interest they will talk at length. Possibly a reward system may work with this child. Set him a small target for communication in each lesson, if he achieves it he is rewarded.
  4. Thank you. I did try and ease the pressure off him and do chose him if he has his hand up. I am meeting with his dad tomorrow so I can ask him about his interests at home etc then.
    I also thought about having traffic lights on his desk so he can show me non-verbally whether he is stuck or doing okay with his work.
  5. Tom_Bennett

    Tom_Bennett Occasional commenter

    Shy pupils are a peculiar challenge- some teachers ignore them because they can, on the premise that it's one less voice to deal with. Obviously this is the opposite of the ideal, but in a challenging class it can seem a safe option.
    If he's approaching selective mutism, then there are certain contexts and triggers that provoke silence, and others that encourage interaction. I would steer clear of setting 'talk targets', because any focus on having to speak in that manner will simply pile anxiety upon anxiety. I'll take a punt and suggest that he's terrified of looking stupid in front of his peers and/ or you. Therefore when he's put on the spot in a formal environment he tightens up and shuts his shell.
    You don't coax the pearl out by force (actually the metaphor is weak, because of course you can, but you have to smash the poor thing open, never to swim again); you tickle it. Can the targets, and tell him he doesn't have to speak if he doesn't want to. And avoid any non verbal cues that show you really want him to speak, or he'll still feel the same anxiety. Just give him normal tasks, selling away from reading out in public; get him doing as much verbal interaction with his peers, and perhaps you in one-to-one circumstances.
    Using these contexts to develop his confidence and experience, he'll possibly just grow out of his habit of not speaking. After all, like Moses, some are not born to eloquence and oratory; that doesn't mean they can't express themselves perfectly well. As long as he has a functional level of articulacy, and he's developing in other ways (writing, for example, or you can see that he talks perfectly well with his peers), then what harm is there if he doesn't run the role plays? The most reassuring thing about this boy is that he DOES speak, at home, and with others.
    So give him some space; touch base with him from time to time in a verbal way to check learning and see if he's ready to engage, and let time straighten out any kinks.
    Good luck

    Read more from Tom here on his blog, or follow him.

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