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How to understand and work with introverted students.

The inherent difference between extroverts and introverts is the amount of stimulation their brains need to function effectively. Some people cannot work unless loud music is playing in the background and there is an ambient sound of conversations around them. Extroverts, as such people are called, don’t mind being interrupted and often need to switch between tasks to stay focused. Extroverts thrive in a high stimulation environment. In your classroom, extroverts are the loudest students, always eagerly volunteering for any exercise, without even knowing what it is. All this is because extroverts draw their energy from the external environment. Music, TV, road traffic and other people all create large streams of information their brains use to sustain the energy levels.

 

Introverts, on the other hand, draw their energies from within. When too many streams of information are fighting for introvert’s attention we can’t think clearly – there’s too much noise. That’s why introverts, like myself, prefer to work in a quiet corner of a cafe or even better still – at home. That’s why if we listen to music it’s a low volume acoustic playlist or a classical piano. Introverts in your classrooms are the students who look at you tentatively and rarely raise their hands, who enjoy creative, artistic or writing exercises and say little when prompted to speak. 

 

One way to think of extroverts and introverts is as Tarzans and lions. 

 

Tarzan thrives in a thick tropical Jungle. He can be very impressive when swinging from one vine to another, only to land and ran along a thick tree branch and jump from a waterfall. In other words, for Tarzan to be the most effective, he needs a lot of things in his environment. Tarzan would be infinitely less impressive if you’d placed him in a grassland. In an environment without things to bounce off Tarzan would lose to a lion in no time. 

 

This is because, when placed in a spacious environment where their movements aren’t restricted by many obstacles, lions turn into the deadliest of weapons. They thrive in situations where they can see everything around them for miles, where they can lock-in on one specific target and start chasing it obsessively, without the worry they’ll run into anything. However, when placed in Tarzan’s busy jungle, lions become overwhelmed and break down.

 

Extroverts rely heavily on their short term memory, jumping from one thought to another like Tarzan from vine to vine. This means they work much better under pressure and need less time to think. They like competition, games such as charades and group exercises. Their preferred style of work is an active one favouring quantity over quality.  

 

Introverts, on the other hand, work mainly with their long term memory and need time to formulate their ideas. What matters to them is the quality of the content they create which means they prefer to produce less work but of a higher value. To help them blossom, strive for intellectually engaging exercises that produce meaningful results. Introverts enjoy puzzles, poetry, drawing and writing stories.

 

For introverts to thrive in your classroom, it needs to become a grassland. Strive to limit their stimulation to minimum by letting them work individually, in a total quiet, giving them plenty of time and resisting every treacher’s need to interrupt every 2 minutes because you feel like the class is too silent. 

 

Exercises to avoid:

  • Individual presentations in front of the whole class.

  • Speaking activities in which students are anxiously waiting for their turn.

  • Working in large groups.

  • Being put on the spot. 

  • Fast paced games. 

  • Active games with a lot of movement and shouting.

     

Here’s a list of 6 exercises perfect for your classroom introverts. 

Crossword Puzzle

Level: A2 and above


Type: individual, writing


Work time: 10 – 15 minutes


Teacher prep time: 3 minutes. 


What you’ll need: a simple crossword puzzle with all the words uncovered.


Setup:


1. Make a crude crossword puzzle on a piece of paper.

Something like this:


ALARM

OPEN

MAPLE

KILLER

EEL


2. Writing on the black board convert all the letters into boxes 𐀀


3. Ask your students questions i.e:


Loud noise which wakes you up every morning.

Opposite to ‘closed’.

Leaf from this tree is in the Canadian flag.

Someone who murders people.

Water ‘snake’ which can electrocute its victims.


4. When the warm-up game is over distribute A4 papers to all your students. 


The procedure:

 

1. Instruct them to design their own crossword puzzles and write questions at the bottom. Make sure to tell your students that they are making them to later exchange with their friends. 


2. After they have finished, ask your students to exchange the Puzzles with their colleagues who will try to solve it. 


Note: it’s best to show them how to create the password by displaying the process of first writing the password vertically and then adding other words only to convert all letters into boxes at the end. I’ve done this exercise with ages ranging from 8 to 25 and there were always individuals struggling to make the initial crossword.

Mind-Map

Level: A1 and above.


Type: individual, writing, creative.


Work time: 20 minutes.


What you’ll need: blank sheets of A4 paper.


Simple, yet incredibly powerful, exercise. It’s perfect for reviewing a variety of knowledge, for instance after finishing a Unit in a workbook or to summarize a large section of grammar, such as the past tenses, or all the new vocabulary. 


The procedure:

 

1. Give each student an A4 page


2. Instruct them to write the topic in large UPPERCASE the middle of the page, i.e. PAST TENSES, UNIT 5


3. Next, students create arrows or lines towards slightly smaller and more specific sub-topics, i.e. PRESENT PERFECT, PAST SIMPLE, etc. 


4. From each of the sub-topics they should create more arrows leading to even smaller and more specific sub-sub-topics, i.e. PRESENT PERFECT STRUCTURE, WHEN DO WE USE IT, etc.


5. They do this, making the information smaller and more specific, until they reach the baseline information.


The true power of Mind Maps comes from the creative use of your students’ imagination. 


They ought to use many colours.

Different fonts  for each section.

And as many pictures as possible.


Mind-Maps work by engaging the whole brain in a creative activity. This way the information covered in them may be retained much easier, as the neural networks are strengthened with colour and visual variety.

Party Invitations

Level: A2 and higher


Type: all class, speaking


Work time: 10 – 15 minutes (incl. 5 min prep)


Teacher Prep: none

I know what you may be thinking – introverts and parties don’t really go together. You’re right and that’s exactly why an exercise like that is perfect for introverts as an easy and unobtrusive simulation of something out of their element.


The procedure:

 

1. Instruct your students to prepare a table with all the 7 days of the week.


2. Each student adds 3 events in their week calendar (all on different days):


The party they are organising.

One evening when they need to go to bed early.

One evening when they have to stay home and study.


So for example, Chloe is organising her party on Tuesday, needs to go to bed early on Thursday and is studying on Sunday.


3. Next, students will walk around the classroom inviting their peers to their parties. 


The dialogue would go like this:


Hi Mark, can you come to my party on Tuesday?

No, sorry I need to go to bed early then.

or

No sorry I’m already going to Vicky’s party.

or

Yes, sure!


4. At the end of the activity, the student with the most guests to their party wins the game.


NOTE: Introverts thrive in this type of exercise because they get to practice speaking without being put on the spot. The topic of each conversation is clear with a predictable result which allows their brain to focus on the conversation itself rather than the words they’ll have to say next. Moreover, this seems to be a group exercise but in reality it’s actually individual – everyone is collecting information for themselves.

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Me Quiz

Level: A2 and higher

 

Type: Pairs, speaking

 

Work time: 15 minutes

 

Teacher prep: none

 

 

The procedure:

 

1 First, you’ll need to run an example with the whole class. Tell your students a story, it can be anything from the story of what you did in the morning to your grandfather learning how to fly. 

 

2. After you’ve finished ask 5 (open) questions about your story:

 

How old was my grandpa when he learned how to fly?

What was his first aircraft?

What caused the crash?

What job did he have after being a pilot?

What does my grandpa do now?

 

Ask volunteers to raise their hands if they know the answer.

 

3. Say you’re going to do a similar exercise in pairs. Put your students into pairs. 

 

4. Provide them with a handful of topics to discuss.

 

Beginners

 

 

 What did you do this morning?

  1. Describe your family.
  2. What are your plans for the weekend?
  3. What are you afraid of and why?
  4. Why are you learning English?

 

 

Intermediate

 

  1. Where did you go on your last holiday and what did you do there?

  2. What do you usually do with your friends?

  3. What’s the plot of the film you last saw?

  4. Describe your daily routine.

  5. Describe a dream you recently had.

  6. Why are you learning English?

 

Advanced

 

  1. What’s the most important thing in life and why?

  2. Which world problem is the most pressing?

  3. Who was the most influential person in history?

  4. What technology will we have in the future?

  5. What’s the advice you’d give to your younger self?

  6. Which city on Earth would you like to live in?

  7. Why do you learn English?

 

5. After Partner A has finished, he or she asks 5 questions about what they have just said. For each question Partner B answered correctly they get one point. 


6. Then they swap.

Start - Finish Story

Level: B1 and higher


Type: Individual, writing


Work time: 25 minutes


Teacher prep: none


This one is perfect for reviewing vocabulary.


The procedure:

 

1. Give every student one A4 sheet.


2. Instruct them to fill it completely with vocabulary. Minimum 25 words. It’s important that the words are scattered around the page in random places and not as a list. There should be medium sized, spaced and randomly distributed around the page. 


3. When they are finished, tell them to write START in the left upper corner and FINISH in the right bottom corner, so that the two words are diagonally opposite. 


4. Ask them to make a sequence (or chain) of 10 words, starting at the START, and connecting the words together until they reach FINISH. 


5. Finally, instruct the students to write a creative story that uses these words, one after another, just as they are in the sequence. 


An example the chain could be:

APPLE—HOUSE—DUTY—TEACHER—MANGO—-FASCINATION—-FRANCE—ANTIBIOTIC


The story then will use ‘apple’ then in the next sentence ‘house’, then ‘duty’ and so on. It needs to make logical sense but encourage students to make their stories funny if they want to. 


6. In the end, students will share their stories by first reading the sequence of words, and then the full story.

Association Spider Web

Level: A2 and higher (great for advanced students)


Type: individual, writing


Work time: 20 minutes


Teacher prep: none


The procedure:

 

1. Give each learner an A4 page


2. Instruct them to write 1 word in the very center of the page. It could be the same word for everyone or one of their own choosings.


For example:


SUCCESS


3. Next, around that word they should write its associations.


PEOPLE MONEY

WINNER SUCCESS COMPANY

HAPPINESS FAME

4. The next layer are associations for the associations:

 

HUMANS ECONOMY DOLLARS

 OLYMPICS PEOPLE MONEY SALARY

COMPETITION WINNER SUCCESS COMPANY BUILDING

TROPHY HAPPINESS FAME BILLIONAIRE

SATISFACTION CELEBRITY

 

5. And so on…


Variation 1: easy

Every word you add must be either a synonym or a loose association to one next to it. 

I.e. HAPPINESS –> SATISFACTION

 

HUMANS ECONOMY DOLLARS

 OLYMPICS PEOPLE MONEY SALARY

COMPETITION WINNER SUCCESS COMPANY BUILDING

TROPHY HAPPINESS FAME BILLIONAIRE

SATISFACTION CELEBRITY

 

Variation 2: medium

Every word you add must be a synonym or an association to 2 words next to it.

I.e. MONEY COMPANY —-> SALARY

 

HUMANS ECONOMY DOLLARS

 OLYMPICS PEOPLE MONEY SALARY

COMPETITION WINNER SUCCESS COMPANY BUILDING

TROPHY HAPPINESS FAME BILLIONAIRE

SATISFACTION CELEBRITY

 

Variation 3: hard

Every word you add needs to be associated with all the words surrounding it.

HUMANS ECONOMY DOLLARS

 OLYMPICS PEOPLE MONEY SALARY

COMPETITION WINNER SUCCESS COMPANY BUILDING

TROPHY HAPPINESS FAME BILLIONAIRE

SATISFACTION CELEBRITY

2 Comments

  • Very interesting funny ways to teach introverts and extroverts students. I liked it…

    Reply
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    Reply

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