introverts in the classroom

introverts are people too

Between 1/3  and 1/2 of the kids in our classes are introverts (Susan Cain). 

That does not mean that they are "shy".  

That does not mean that they don't like to talk.

That does not mean that they don't know how to make friends.

It means that these kids need time to be in a quiet space and time to be alone with their thoughts.

Extroverts get energy from being surrounded by interactions with other people; introverts need alone time to recharge.

Earlier this year I read a wonderful book by Susan Cain - Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking. 

Susan Cain is also  a highly regarded TED speaker (2.5 million views).  She is well worth the listen.


Cain argues that we live in a "culture of personality" where extroversion is the ideal, and that those who are not gregarious and don't thrive on being the life of the party are at a cultural disadvantage.
But Caine states that we are all missing out if we only hear the loud voices of the extrovert.  Introverts tend to be creative and are careful, reflective thinkers.  Introverts can be effective leaders who make considered decisions and are not looking for personal glory. Van Gogh's Sunflowers and the personal computer are gifts from introverts to the world.

Back to the classroom.  (yup, that's me by my classroom door)

How can we meet the learning needs of the introverts in our rooms?

Here is my list for the care and teaching of introverts.

1.  provide space where a child can choose to be by themselves - and no one can come and take over the space or activity

2.  ensure that the classroom environment is not overstimulating

“They feel at their most alive and their most switched-on and their most capable when they’re in quieter, more low-key environments…a lot of the time."      
― Susan CainQuiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking                                                                   
3.  leave time to think - a quick answer is not always the best answer

4.  make sure that everyone who wants to has an opportunity to contribute to discussions, not only the most vocally assertive

“While the introvert is reflecting on the question (thinking first), the extrovert takes this as an invitation to fill the void (talking first). As long as the introvert doesn’t interrupt, the extrovert continues to fill the interpersonal space with talk. But as long as the extrovert talks, the introvert can’t think and stays mute. Mute means the invitation is still open, and continued talk assures that the introvert remains mute. By the time the extrovert pauses to ask, the introvert’s head is pounding and he or she just wants to get out so she can think. The extrovert just assumes the introvert had nothing to say, and moves on.”
― Laurie HelgoeIntrovert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength

5.  nurture their passions

6.  allow the child to be by themselves or with a friend rather than with a noisy crowd without insinuating there is anything wrong with that choice  (ie.  Jonny does not make friends easily

"at school you might have been prodded to come “out of your shell”—that noxious expression which fails to appreciate that some animals naturally carry shelter everywhere they go, and that some humans are just the same.”

7.  remember that constant groupwork (especially a rotation of different groups)  is like walking on hot coals

“We know we only have so much energy for reaching out; if we’re going to invest, we want it to be good.”
― Laurie HelgoeIntrovert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength

8.  make space for collaboration with interested people - it sparks creativity 

9. do not refer to the child as "shy" - "shy" denotes anxiety and is something that is expected that we "get over"

“The secret to life is to put yourself in the right lighting. For some, it's a Broadway spotlight; for others, a lamplit desk. Use your natural powers -- of persistence, concentration, and insight -- to do work you love and work that matters. Solve problems. make art, think deeply.”
― Susan Cain

or, it might be the soft glow of a lantern at night ...

ps   Parenting From Scratch has a fabulous post about raising an introverted child.   


  1. Excellent post, Sandi. I've heard a lot about that book ... guess I'll have to buy it:) It felt like you were describing me -- that's exactly what I was like as a child. It's good to be reminded that there are lots of kids out there who are just like that. I have a lot of parents who automatically refer to their kids as "shy" right in front of them! Drives me crazy.
    Grade ONEderful
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  2. Sandi, I LOVE this post. I am (and was) and introvert so I have a very special place in my heart for other introverts.
    Mrs. Goff's Pre-K Tales

    1. Barbara and Lyn - as introverts you will LOVE the book Quiet. I devoured it. I kept wanting to nudge my husband, hand him to book, and say "look, I'm normal - this is how people like me are!".

  3. Thanks for this..I consider myself an introvert outside of my classroom with my kiddos and sometimes it's best to give them some "down time". I had a child in my PreK classroom who had selective mutism and I was very careful to make her feel comfortable and explain to her things on a one to one basis.

  4. Love this post Sandi, I am always having to reassure parents that it is a good thing for a child to be in their own company rather than always needing the support of others. I hope when reading this that I am creating a classroom that is supportive of the introverts.

  5. On behalf of parents of introverted children, I thank and applaud you for this post and for what you are doing for your students! we had a horrible first kindergarten year because of a teacher who did not "get it", told me that I need to tell my daughter that she is in big girl school now and needs to "get over it", the entire year she was in my child's space, not allowing her the time to think she needs before she speaks, etc, etc, it was an AWFUL year that did nothing to help my daughter cope or blossom. it is nice to see that there are people and especially teacher's who are compassionate towards the introverted ones!!!

  6. As an introverted adult I can see some great points here that would have helped me in the classroom and would be helpful in everyday life now! Thanks for a great post :)

  7. I wonder if extroversion is more popular in the USA- where we are culturally more focused on being assertive, big and loud . . .

  8. Thank you for this! My youngest daughter is an introvert and starts Kindergarten this year.


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