What can teachers do to help?

Teachers can have a negative or positive effect on shy students.  Teachers who interpret shy behavior as willful or spiteful may punish the students for remaining silent when asked to sing or to speak.  Punishing shy behavior makes no more sense than punishing urination accidents.  It is more likely to cause emotional harm to the students than to help the child develop.
Teachers who view helping students become more outgoing as a developmental project similar to helping the student learn to read or share toys may have quite a positive impact on shy students.  Teachers can use the following nine strategies to help shy students become more outgoing:
1.        Put children in pairs or other small groups and lead them into an activity that requires interaction.
 Here are a few examples for young students: Pair students and ask them to hold hands when they go somewhere outside class. Ask two students to play together one day. With two or three students, play a group game, such as emotions charades, or a fantasy game, such as firefighters working together to rescue someone.
2.       Prompt interaction between students.
One way to do this is to give the shy students the words to say to another person, for example, “Juan, ask that boy what his name is.” Or, “If you don't know the answer to a question, you can say, ‘I don't know.’” Or, “Say that you want to play too.” If speaking by a shy student is out of the question for the moment, encourage nonverbal communication. Waving hello is much better than making no response to a greeting. Another way of prompting involves talking to one child and to another in a way that encourages them to talk together. For instance: “Christine, I see that you're pretending to be a doctor. Ben makes a great patient. Ben, tell the doctor where you hurt.” Or: “Jizreel, you have a dog and Nickie does.
3.       Give shy students plenty of time to respond to questions or to speak to the class.
Don't rush to speak for them, for instance, during show-and-tell. Be patient -- it may take them a while to overcome their nervousness and speak.  If the child doesn't answer after a period of several seconds, go on pleasantly to the next child or activity.
4.      Show empathy and understanding.
By commenting in a caring way on a shy students apparent emotion, such as nervousness or embarrassment, you can help the students learn to identify those emotions. By talking about similar emotions you experienced either recently or when you were a student, you can show the student that the emotions are OK and that it is all right to talk about them. Identifying and talking about the emotions may help the student control them.
5.      Show warmth.
Play with all the students, compliment them, speak nicely to them, and show interest in them. All students like being treated warmly, but shy students  may gain the greatest benefit from being “warmed” up.
6.      Reward outgoing behavior.
Praise students when they interact in a positive way with another classmate. Set the reward standard lowers for shy students and gradually require more outgoing behavior for praise. So, you might initially praise a shy student for raising three fingers in answer to the question what is one plus two. Later, you might require her to say “three” in order to receive praise. Still, later, you might require her to say “three” appropriately loud to receive praise.