Teaching can be such a rewarding career because of the various personalities and learning types you meet and interact with in your classroom. Teachers know they will always need to keep their lesson plans differentiated enough to reach all these different types of students.
This also means there will be students who struggle to focus and remain on task. Not only will teachers have to work extra hard to engage these types of students, they will also have to deal with the behavioral implications. Often times these students can become disruptive and, if not properly handled, can lead to the disruption of other students in the class.
Here is a compiled list of of some of the most effective tips to reaching reluctant learners. Teachers can identify, engage, and reach these students and adjust their techniques to be sure all students have the tools to succeed.
Discover What Interests Them
You have the opportunity to learn about your students’ interests, as you tend to see them (nearly) every day. Listen to students as they enter the classroom. What are they discussing? What kind of t-shirts are they wearing? Do they love a particular hockey team? Band? How about their sneakers? Are they for skateboarding? Students often display their interests in their fashion. These are all ways to play detective and discover what the reluctant learner is more fascinated in (rather than the lesson). If the student likes zombies, then incorporate some zombies into your lesson. These learners need a bridge into the material being presented, so build that bridge out of their passions. It will spark an interest and help you capture their engagement.
Ask Them to Help You With a Task
Whether it’s as a time keeper, someone to write results on the board, or someone to help pass out and collect materials, asking a reluctant learner to assist will give him or her a sense of empowerment and respect. Be sure to ask in a positive way, so the request isn’t received as a punishment.
The same can be true for classroom errands. If you need to return textbooks to the library or send a note to another teacher, ask a reluctant learner before class. Don’t put them in the spotlight for the request, instead make it private and personal, so the student doesn’t feel the need to perform in front of the rest of the class. This is a chance for you to tell this student they are important and a valued member of the class.
Move Them to the Center
Reluctant learners can be the first to disengage and this can lead to disruptions. One tried and true strategy is to seat this student in the center of the classroom. This will allow the teacher to keep his or her eyes on the student easily, while also surrounding the student with other engaged students. The students who gravitate to the center tend to create a positive environment. They can be helpful, friendly, and engaging. Placing the reluctant learner amongst the stronger students is a subtle way to show them they are great students too. They won’t find cohorts to help disrupt the class, but rather find allies in learning. Let the reluctant learner discover what it feels like to be a positive part of the classroom learning experience.
Speak to Them Alone
If the day comes that the reluctant learner is disruptive, don’t punish them or criticize them in front of the other students. Rather, find a quick way to end the disruption and then discuss the situation after class with the student. Give them the chance to explain why they were acting this way and remember to show them respect and kindness. Then explain why this kind of behavior can’t continue. Remember, making the student feel like they are still a valuable part of the classroom community, even if they have a tough day, will go a long way into building trust with you. And with trust, these students are more likely to listen to you in the classroom when you do need to ask them to return to task.
Send a Positive Message to Their Home
Often times, the reluctant learner has already become used to always “being in trouble.” A way to help inflate their self-esteem, and thereby show them they are a valuable student to you, is to send a message to their parents or guardians that’s purely positive. It will create a supportive network between you and their home. Reluctant learners need a special kind of care and attention, and showing them you’ll take the time to tell home that they are doing positive things in the classroom will help inspire them to try a little harder in your class.
Remember, reluctant learners require a little more work on the teacher’s part, but they can be reached and they can succeed.
What are some ways you’ve successfully reached reluctant learners in your classroom?
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