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Texas ISD School Guide
Texas ISD School Guide

Articles for Teachers

Tips For Teachers - Reducing Social Anxiety and Shyness in Children
By:I Bell

Often, teachers feel powerless in front of a very sweet, yet painfully shy, child. The shy child who suffers from social anxiety feels isolated during playtime. In class, the child never speaks up, even if they know the answer. During presentations and show-and-tell, socially anxious children have a very hard time. They are almost always incapacitated by their social anxiety and are unable to convey the information they already know, or even display the work they have prepared.

First and foremost, it is important for a teacher to differentiate between shy students, and students who are quiet because of disinterest or those who need scholastic help and support. While it is true that a student who does not speak up in class may not have done his/her homework, some students may not speak up-or even answer questions-because they are shy. This shyness goes beyond the cute bashfulness.

This is social anxiety which is very serious due to the fact that it halts their participation in class discussions, and seriously hampers their public speaking skills-possibly for life. The distinction can be easily made if you compare the student's performance on written assignments with their performance on oral questions, or presentations. An A student who delivers a poor presentation maybe simply held back by shyness. If you suspect that this is the case, ask your student to submit their presentation prep material. In a friendly setting, discuss the presentation topic with the student. Ask them questions, mainly for the purpose of demonstrating for them that they KNOW their material. You can also set a date for a "repeat presentation", where you could suggest that they use PowerPoint slides and a data show. This reduces the eye-contact time, and might ease them into the skill of public speaking.

While the above suggestions are very helpful for the older students, younger kids require a completely different approach. You, as a homeroom teacher, will have no trouble identifying a child with a chronic shyness or social anxiety problem because you spend a lot of time with them and observe them play. The shy child will not like show-and-tell very much. Make sure you help them choose something they are passionate about. You can also help them make a small video presentation to accompany their oral presentation. Making the video catchy, full of sounds, rich images and fun, is sure to turn it into a success that the whole class will enjoy. The shy child will benefit tremendously from this experience: watching themselves speak on camera, and experiencing success in their project is sure to increase their self-confidence which will dampen the effect on shyness on their morale.

Students with shyness and social anxiety also experience trouble when reading aloud. They stutter and sometimes are completely unable to read. This is no cause to skip the shy child when choosing students to read: reading aloud is a perfect opportunity to help them overcome their shyness. The teacher can try and choose the least challenging passages for these troubled students. Also, you can work out a "reading aloud plan" with them where you give them a few lines (or words in the case of a younger child) to practice at home in advance knowing that they will read them aloud the next day. Tell them to repeat the saying "practice makes progress" while inhaling and exhaling deeply if they stutter at home. Creating positive reading aloud experiences will leave a lasting impression on someone with social anxiety.

Also, If you feel like the child's social life and/or achievement in school is greatly affected by his/her social anxiety it is necessary to enlist the help of the school psychologist/counselor and talk about it with the parents.

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