The classroom can be a great place for children to socialize with their peers while getting an education. But participation can difficult for shy or introverted children. In the US, there is a focus on extraversion, and on participation and group work at all levels of education, from kindergarten to postgraduate. There’s currently a debate about whether this focus on participation is necessarily good for everyone, but while participation is still actively encouraged, how can we encourage shy children to feel confident enough to take part?

For many children who suffer from social anxiety problems or are otherwise shy, classroom participation can be incredibly stressful. The thought of talking in front of a group of other children or worse – having to put on a performance or presentation -can be terrifying. If your child freezes with a sea of eyes on them or has a perfectionist fear of messing up in front of a crowd, they’ll avoid future participation opportunities.

Shy children can benefit from participation. It is an easy way for their teacher to give accurate and real time feedback on their academic performance. It is also the perfect way for your child to slowly build up their confidence as they break out of their shell and learn how to communicate effectively with others, and to think on their feet..

The first step is to identify whether or not your child is having difficulties with the subject matter or is actually shy. Often, a teacher may mistake a child’s lack of participation as a problem understanding the material, or a willful attitude to avoid participation. If there’s no problem with subject matter, then it’s a case of leading a shyer child out of their shell through a carefully stepped process, rather than being thrown in the deep end. We all feel uneasy if we step outside our comfort zone, and it’s the same with your child.

Start by setting up a participative activity with a group of children rather than just one. It can also be a great idea to start participation with simple and easy tasks that don’t require them to leave the comfort of their desk and  then build up to working their way to the front of the room. Gradual steps to increase classroom participation will help the child ease into the spotlight, expanding their comfort zone which will in turn help their social and academic performance.