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How to teach the hard-to-reach student

New York Teacher

As teachers, we encounter a wide variety of student personalities. Some children are eager to learn, which can often make them easy to teach. However, we have all dealt with a child who is difficult to reach, and teaching that particular student can be a struggle. Here are some tips to assist you as you strive to teach the hard-to-reach student.

Keep her close: Assigned seating can do wonders for any classroom. Place the hard-to-reach student close to you, whether it is in the front of the classroom or next to your desk. You do not have to necessarily hover over the child, but let her know you are watching the work she does.

Put in extra effort: Every child in your classroom should have the opportunity to succeed. Some, particularly the hard-to-reach student, will need an extra push (or many!). Through trial and error, develop a system that motivates this student. Perhaps it is a tap on the desk to refocus, a sticker reward system or daily positive phone calls or emails to his parents.

Make your expectations known: Do not let your pupils settle for bare minimum (and do not allow yourself to accept the bottom of the barrel). Be sure that your students are aware of what you expect from each and every one of them by using strategies such as setting clear classroom rules, giving specific instructions for assignments and holding individual conferences. Think back to your own experiences in school; there was probably a time when a teacher’s instructions were so unclear that you did not have the faintest idea what to do. Make a point of being clear about your expectations for lessons and assignments.

Model and practice: Many students need to see how something is done and then have the opportunity to practice with immediate and explicit feedback. As you model, be sure you have the attention of your students. When they are doing the work in groups or individually, circulate around the room giving clear feedback on what each child is doing right, as well as what they need to improve on.

Teach in different ways: Brush up on the theory of multiple intelligences, and ask yourself how you can change your lessons so they meet the needs of every student. You may find that your hard-to-reach younger student has immense difficulty with quiet, independent work, but suddenly perks up and responds favorably when you take out some musical instruments.

Connect with existing interests: Connecting with each child can give us the tools we need to teach to individual strengths. Conferencing with your students should happen on a regular basis anyway, but as you do it, try to go beyond the classroom. What does he do at home? What sports does she like? What is his favorite animal? By opening these doors, you can discover interests that you can incorporate into your lessons. Does your hard-to-reach student have an overwhelming love of dinosaurs? Is teaching math to this pupil like pulling teeth? Try mixing the two in an assignment, and you may be shocked at the results.

Praise, praise, praise! It is unfortunate, but the hard-to-reach student has probably been told year after year by their teachers about all that they do wrong. It is very important to remind your pupils of the things they do right, whether it is sharing with a classmate or putting in effort on an assignment. By offering praise, even if it’s for the littlest things, you will be raising that child’s self-esteem. The more confident students are, the easier they may be to work with and therefore the higher the chance for success.

Connect with parents and guardians: It is important to make every possible attempt to open the lines of communication with parents. Make regular phone calls or send regular emails to keep parents informed. Some may appreciate it and offer words of advice, while others may never return your calls. Either way, you should make the effort.

Don’t give up: And make sure your student knows it. We have all seen (or had) teachers who have just given up on a student for different reasons. As challenging as a student may be, do not give up on him or her. A teacher can have such a powerful effect on a child. Remember that.