Increasing Class Participation

Parent's question

My sixth-grade daughter is a great student, has friends and is involved in choir and tennis. She is, however, a rather quiet, shy child. The teacher recently emailed me saying that she would like my child to participate more in class, especially by raising her hand to answer questions. How can I help my daughter conquer her shyness in the classroom?

Our answer

Some children are very outgoing – always raising their hands in class and participating eagerly in classroom discussions. Then there are those, like your daughter, who are on the quiet side. Since your daughter has friends and participates in many activities, shyness is obviously not a serious problem for her.

By all means, don’t label your child as “shy” or push her to overcome shyness. Doing these things could make shyness a serious problem for her.

There are definitely things that you can do to help your child overcome her shyness, though. Praise her when she behaves in an outgoing or friendly manner to others, and model more outgoing behavior so she will have a role model for interacting with others.

Of course, you do need to talk to your daughter about the teacher’s desire for her to participate more in class. Explain that the teacher is impressed with what a great student your child is and would like her to share her knowledge more with her classmates. You might ask her to make a contribution every day in class. It will be easiest if she does this the first time the teacher asks a question. Then she won’t be worrying about when to respond.

Talk with the teacher about strategies to help your daughter, including the one above. She could appoint your daughter as chair of a group and have her read the group’s report to the class. Or ask her to read textbook passages in class that answer a specific question.

As your daughter begins to participate more in class, success in non-threatening situations will enable her to feel more confident to speak up in more challenging ones. She needs to learn how to do this now, as she is likely to run into a teacher who grades very strongly on class participation sometime in the future.

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