7 Strategies to encourage the quietest students to have a voice

Tal, Teacher

We all remember students that regularly put their hands up in class. 

But what about those that don’t? Those that are more reserved. Those quiet achievers? Those that lack self confidence? Those that are anxious?

From my own experiences, they’re often the best and most diligent students. 

While most of us are not purely introverted or extroverted, it turns out that between one-third to one-half of the population have strong introversion qualities. 

It’s not always possible to reach every student. Yet it’s our privilege and responsibility to always try. And it’s incredibly rewarding when we see the results of our efforts. 

So how can we engage our quietest students? 

Here are 7 of the best strategies for encouraging these students to have a voice.

1. Promote non verbal communication

For many students, the thought of speaking up is terrifying. It makes them dread these experiences. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Non verbal feedback strategies can make students feel more comfortable. It’s a low risk approach that promotes honesty, makes students feel validated and improves motivation. These are quick, easy and involve every student in the feedback process. 

Some suggestions include:

  • Thumbs up, thumbs down to show understanding;
  • Fingers for understanding - 1 finger indicates low understanding, 5 fingers indicates excellent understanding
  • Cup System - a red, orange and green cup per student. Green = I have no problems, Orange = I need some help, red = I am completely lost.


2. Mix it Up With Discrete Feedback Loops

Facilitating a discrete feedback system or tool encourages quiet students to express themselves openly.

There are a number of features in Ziplet for supporting these students:

  • Anonymous responses
    Enabling students to respond anonymously elicits greater honesty from students. Whilst this can seem daunting, with the right cohort of students this approach can provide you with more meaningful feedback which can be used to refine your instruction strategies.

  • Varied response types
    Sometimes students are overwhelmed by written responses, and that’s okay. When it’s relevant, mix it up by using emoji, multiple choice and scale responses. These are an easy way for students to gain a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.

  • Communicate confidentially 

It can be much easier for introverted students to communicate digitally than in real life.

Ziplet lets you select multiple students to send a one-on-one message to, without having to copy and paste or send each message individually. This is helpful when you have a group of students with similar issues but you want to speak to them individually.

3. Use Group Work Impactfully

For shy students, there’s nothing more anxiety inducing than speaking up in front of their peers. 

Strategic group work placement and implementation can help alleviate this pressure. You might put together a group of introverts, to avoid them being drowned out by louder students. Or partner them with a classmate they feel comfortable bouncing ideas off.   

4. Develop strong relationships with your students

Strong teacher student relationships have long lasting impacts for both social and academic wellbeing.  These known benefits include:

  • Positively contributing to social skills
  • Promoting academic performance
  • Fostering students’ resilience
  • Improve school attendance

Read 5 questions that help build strong student-teacher relationships.

5. Foster a respectful and supportive classroom

Students spend a lot of time together. It’s imperative that we help to make these experiences as enjoyable and meaningful as possible.  One way to do this is by asking questions that encourage students to reflect on their behavior, attitudes and the way they treat others. 

Great questions in Ziplet include:

  • How comfortable do you feel speaking in class?
  • How supported do you feel in our class?
  • Do you feel encouraged to take risks in this class? Why/why not?

Read “4 steps to building respectful relationships between students”.

6. Give Them A ‘Heads Up’

A great strategy is to let students know ahead of time that you’ll be calling on them. Let them know what the question will be. Offer to listen to their response preemptively. Conference with them to identify what questions they’d be comfortable responding to. Validate their thoughts. Encourage them to speak openly and confidently.

Helping students formulate their responses in advance alleviates the anxiety of being called upon unexpectedly. And there’s nothing better than watching your students express themselves confidently.

7. Encourage Movement As Learning

Student responses don’t always have to take place in a whole group setting, or while sitting stationarily. 

A Gallery Walk involves students recording their observations, solutions and feedback on large posters positioned throughout the room. The benefits include:

  • Giving quiet students more time to process their thoughts;
  • Promoting risk taking through anonymous responses;
  • Fostering an organic environment to get students talking and collaborating;
  • Using movement as a distraction tool to alleviate stress;


Contributing in front of a class full of your peers isn’t always easy. 

As teachers, we’re in the best position to encourage quiet students to participate by implementing thoughtful teaching strategies.

Try out Ziplet for the best questions to encourage your quietest students to have a voice.


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