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Teaching Strategies to Build Student Confidence

Janelle Cox

For many students, self-confidence is a natural personality trait: You either have it or you don’t.

Confident learners tend to speak more and know how to get their point across. For those students who aren’t so confident, learning new material can feel like swimming upstream. These students are always questioning their abilities and tend to shy away from answering questions.

Confidence can also be taught via some creative teaching strategies. We as teachers have a powerful influence on our students, and we can help them feel confident and proud of themselves and their accomplishments. We can help them feel secure enough that they are willing and able to learn new material.

Here are a few teaching strategies to do just that.

1. Offer praise and acknowledge students’ accomplishments, both in private and in front of their classmates. Always start with a positive statement, and then you can add on by referring to what they need to work on.

2. Try not to correct every single thing the student says wrong. Do not interrupt the student when they are talking to correct them -- this will harm their confidence, not boost it.

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3. Set attainable goals from the start of the year. This is a surefire way for students to see how much they have grown.

4. Give students the opportunity to choose what they learn -- this will help them build their self-worth. Try a learning menu or choice board where students get to choose which activities they want to learn about.

5. Be sure to always express a positive attitude to all of your students. This will show them that you are on their side, and that they are worth your attention.

6. Create opportunities for students to succeed by building on their strengths. If a student knows a lot of information about something, ask them to tell you about it. “I am unfamiliar with how the new gaming system works, can you please explain it to me?” Asking students for their help is a great confidence boost to their ego.

7. Encourage students to do better than they did before. For example, if Brady got a B on his science test, encourage him to get an A this time. It’s important for students to compete against themselves not their classmates.

8. Keep a log of how well all students are doing, and what they are good at and what they need to work on. This careful monitoring will help you catch problems as they arise.

Classroom Activities to Build Self-Confidence

To help students recognize and appreciate their growth try a few of these activities.

Elementary Students

  • Have students draw or paste a picture of themselves on the middle of a piece of paper. Ask students to write or draw all of the things that they like about themselves around their picture. Encourage them to add to the picture every time they think of something new they like about themselves.
  • Challenge students to keep track of all of the things that they can do and add to the list throughout the school year (i.e. How high you can count?, How far can you jump?).

Middle School Students

  • Challenge students to choose one thing that they would like to get better at and give them a timeframe to accomplish this task. (i.e. one week to get an A on a math quiz, two weeks to be able to do learn a magic trick, etc.) Remind students that they are in competition with themselves, not their peers.
  • Have students estimate how long it will take them to complete a task. Students who think it will take them an hour to complete their homework are less inclined to actually do their homework. Once they figure out that a shorter time commitment is required they will be more apt (and confident) to do their work.

High School Students

  • Help students see that there is a connection between how hard you work and how well you succeed. Oftentimes, less-persistent high school students think that good students are smarter than them. Open up a discussion in the classroom and talk about how long it took the students who got a good grade on the last exam to study. Sometimes, all it takes is a quick conversation for students to really grasp that everyone has to work hard in order to succeed.
  • Offer students time to reflect after each lesson. Ask students what they think went right and what they think caused them stress. Have students share their responses with the class. This is a great way for students to see how their peers overcome their problems, which in turn will help them with their own self-confidence.

While biological traits may play a role in self-confidence, we can see from the tips and activities above that it is possible for teachers to give the not-so-confident students a little boost.

Do you have tips to help build your students’ self-confidence? Try a few of the activities above and let us know how they worked in the comment section below. We would love to hear your ideas.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators