How To Get Through To A Class You Struggle With - A Pedagogical Approach

This is the second article on the issue of getting through to a class you struggle with. Often, these classes have many students who lack success in their academic studies. No matter what students say, all students like to succeed. Your task, pedagogically, is to start that process of having success, no matter how small initially. Therefore, your first task is to find out where each student is academically and start there. You may do this by checking their past reports or better still test the students in subtle ways on a new topic before you begin serious teaching. Subtle ways may be a competitive quiz or a diagnostic test. Once you know where your students are, then you can use the strategies below to help them along the way and to reduce your stress levels.

Strategy 1: Be Super Prepared

By this I mean have more activities than you think you will need. Why? Because if one activity or strategy does not work well, quickly use another to keep the class occupied.

Secondly, make sure your knowledge is perfect. Then the class will have confidence in you as a teacher. (It is not unknown for the difficult classes to be given to the less able teachers so these students often have the impression that their teachers 'can't teach'.)

Strategy 2: Concentrate On Basic Skills

In each new topic, start from the basics that they should know and go from there. Tell your class what basics they need to know. Test them frequently with short quizzes or short written tests. These little tests will allow you to show the students they are making progress and having success.

Strategy 3: Use Short, Sharp Activities

These activities prevent boredom for students who finish quickly or struggle to finish. The students get to know the results of their efforts quickly. The class time passes quickly for them. Make sure you keep to the time you set for each activity unless you find that you can use the activity to emphasise a teaching point. All students should be able to get started in each activity you provide them to consolidate your teaching. Include short challenging exercises at the end for the quick finishers and for the brighter students.

Strategy 4: Vary Your Teaching Pedagogue

Difficult classes don't like the traditional 'chalk and talk' lesson (teacher exposition). Use a wide variety of approaches to your lessons where you try to incorporate 'multiple intelligences'. Even use a variety in each lesson.

Strategy 4: Life Related Examples In Your Teaching

These students often lack motivation and don't see any relevance to what they learn in class and life outside the classroom. Wherever possible, seek to relate what you teach to life outside the classroom. There are many educational texts available which are not like the traditional text books. Purchase some in your subject areas and use them to supplement your set textbook. You can still teach the basics of your subject this way. In a subject like Mathematics, a sporting context can create more interest among students.

Strategy 5: Fun And Competitive Exercises

All students like to have fun and enjoy a little competition. Add these to your lessons but set the rules up that you want the students to follow. Otherwise, they may get the impression that you are not serious about this learning.

Strategy 6: Frequent Practice Tests

These should be based on the basic skills they need to have to tackle each assessment instrument. Practise doing each type of assessment task. It is also important to teach them how to do an exam. With all my classes I review examination technique before and after each assessment task.

Strategy 7: Learning From Mistakes And How To Improve Performance

With each new topic I teach, I always explain where mistakes can be made. After marking an assessment task, I point out to students the mistakes they have made and discuss ways to avoid them in the future.

Strategy 8: Motivational Phrases

Each day on my board away from the part I use in teaching, I write a motivational phrase for my students. Sometimes, I'll explain what it means to help get the students on task. Here are just a few:

    Thinking is the hardest work of all. That's why so few of us do it.
    Recognise the opportunity, grab it and do something with it.
    Successful people do things that failures don't want to do.

Strategy 9: Ideas On Homework

There is always a debate on whether to give homework with these sorts of classes. If homework is mandated in your school or subject, here are just a few ideas to consider.

Give homework that consolidates the work taught in class that day.

Make sure that the initial work is easy so all students get a start.

Don't make it onerous.

Check the homework the next day or at the beginning of the next lesson.

Answer questions related to it. Reteach work if necessary.

Have a process where students can seek help from you if they are unable to do their homework.

Strategy 10: Instructions

These students often have poor listening you need to not only give the verbal instructions slowly but you need to write them on the board. Keep your instructions as simple as possible.

Strategy 11: Other Skills

Teach your students how to listen powerfully; how to concentrate; how to write notes and so on. Model the behaviour or skills they need to learn often.

In conclusion, let the 'KISS' principle be your guide; 'Keep It Simple, Stupid'. Do everything with your class with a step by step approach. Remember, a stressed-out teacher is no good to anyone. Don't be slow in stepping back when the lesson is not going well and take a time-out with the class. Do something that is easy and enjoyable for all.

Article Source: Richard D Boyce

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