We all have them. Those few students that no matter how engaging, exciting, or well planned your day is, they just aren't with you. What I want to say to these students is that my team and I spent hours planning, prepping, and getting supplies so that our class could have a meaningful experience that would be remembered forever. We all know how that would end. In my case it would be an exaggerated eye roll and a muttering of something less than pleasant under their breath. This reaction just fires me up, but I know I have to fight that fire. Instead of blaming the student, using sarcasm, or a feeble attempt at giving orders I try to keep my cool and really get my students on board. The following are tried and true ways to pull students over to your side and get them on board with the rest of your class.
Describe the Problem or Situation
This one is the toughest for me, because you have to leave all emotion out of it, but it can really work miracles! Instead of accusing a students of something such as, "You haven't started your assignment yet," instead describe the situation a la, "I see that you have your paper ready to start the assignment." This allows students to take the cue and even offers a small compliment that they are prepared. It really throws them off their game. Another easy way of describing the situation is by reminding them of the time they have available by saying, "There are forty-five minutes to complete this assignment." I particularly like this one, because it is a great reminder to all students, not just ones who haven't started yet.
The trick to describing the situation is to stick to the facts.
Inform Don't Order
This one is another quick statement of fact, that works well with describing the situation, but is even more brief. I used this one a lot with homework. Instead of questioning each students who did not have their homework I would respond with the same, "Homework is due on Friday." This simple statement of fact reminds students of the expectations without rubbing their face in it.
The trick to informing is to keep it brief.
Everyone child, adolescent, or adult wants to have choices in what they do each day. This is an especially good option for students that you feel a power struggle with. When you give choices, you want to make sure that regardless of the choice that they choose they will be fulfilling expectations.
Some easy choices for completing assignments are:
- Would you like to use pen or pencil?
- Are you doing the back or the front first?
- Would you like to work at your desk or with a clip board on the floor?
- Would you like to sit or stand while working?
- Would you like to do the first problem by yourself or would you like my help?
All of these choices have the same goal of getting the student working.
The trick to giving choices is to keep it simple.
Share Your Feelings
This can be a tricky one because you don't want to make the situation about you, and you also don't want it to turn into a guilt trip which can happen easily. I find that this plan works best when multiple people are involved. The goal is to share how a situation makes you feel, without explicitly placing blame. This might sound something like, "It embarrasses me when the P.E. teacher tells me my class didn't listen." Then you just leave it there. It isn't a tactic to start a discussion, it is simply looking for compliance by sharing how you feel.
The trick to sharing your feelings is to be honest, but not turn it into a guilt trip.
Asking a question is a great way to get students on board with what you are doing, because instead of being accusatory it is offering them an excuse of sorts to kind of save face, but still do what is asked of them. Some of my go to questions are:
- Do you need a pencil to get started?
- Would you like to work in another spot?
- Is there something I can help you with?
- Are you feeling okay?
- Did you eat breakfast?
All of these questions invite the student to share why they aren't participating and offer a solution at the same time.
The trick to asking a question is to offer a solution within the question.
Want to Read On?
These are the best reference books I have found on getting students to cooperate in the classroom. (affliliate links)