Managing Your Class When
Many Students Are Reluctant Learners
Many students decide in advance that the work is going to be
too hard for them and they may retreat into themselves or
they may act out. Either way, as the teacher in charge you
need to have strategies to deal with the situation. Here are
some tips taken from Classroom Discipline and Control by Fred and Carol Chernow:
Be sure the child knows exactly what to do. Structure the
learning situation so that the student fully understands the
process. An anxious student will worry about what might
happen or what could go wrong and what mistakes he or she
might make. Do not assume the student knows what to do.
Have the student compete with his or her own
past performance rather than another child in the class. Eliminate
peer pressure as much as you can. Ask questions like, "How
did you do compared with last time?" or, "Is this what you expected
on the test?
Assure the student some success in learning. If the student
is fearful of reading aloud in class, provide some practice
time or allow the student to use a tape recorder. Let the
student draw a book report instead of writing, if necessary.
At first, accept less. Reduce the criteria for success or
correctness. Gradually raise your standards to meet the
level of the rest of the class.
Many times these students seem to be arrogant or
they act as though they don't care. Don't let that attitude fool
you; underneath that attitude is a very insecure and anxious child.
Often these reluctant learners become immobilized by their fear
of failure. We need to help them see that the worst thing that
can happen is that they might make a mistake, which only proves
that we are human.
You can minimize discipline problems if you develop
awareness on the part of the slower and reluctant learner of
exactly what the school rules are. Rules concerning student
conduct should be clearly stated and reviewed at the
beginning of the year. But if things are not working, feel
free to say we are starting over, and go over the rules
again. Students take more ownership of the rules if they
have a part in formulating them. It also helps to explain
why we follow certain rules.
Personally, I have always kept my rules very simple.
My first rule is respect: That includes respect for yourself as
a learner, and respect for others by treating them they way you
would like to be treated. I usually explain that if you respect
yourself as a learner you're not likely
to act foolishly or get into fights. My second rule is to raise
your hand if you wish to speak during lessons. Again I explain
that when they are working independently or when we are having
a discussion it is fine for them to talk, but during a lesson
we need to raise our hands. My third rule is stay in your seats
unless you have permission to get up. The explanation is similar.
These three rules have worked extremely well for me with all elementary
grades Pre-K through 6.
As a classroom teacher, I am sure you will have fewer
discipline problems if you make the learning as
individualized as possible. Again some ideas from the
Plan your classroom environment. Set up listening areas,
activity centers and various curriculum corners.
Arrange your books and materials according to subject area
and use color coding to help children know where to return
Prepare a simple profile for each child; include scores,
observations, test marks, strengths and weaknesses.
Have the students help you set up rules for these learning
Schedule learning station work. Decide where the students
should go and have a list or board with assignments.
Use contracts with students; decide what is to be done and
what the time limits are. Allow students to be involved in
the decision making process.
Use the activity centers for part of the day, and whole
class and small group instruction for another part of the
Share the record keeping with the students; many activities
can be self-checking.
Take your time in implementing this plan; try one or two
centers at a time. Evaluate the process as you go along. In
this type of classroom even the most reluctant learners may
find something of interest and be able to succeed in
Chernow, F & C, (1981) Classroom Discipline and Control:
101 Practical Techniques, Parker Publishing Company,
West Nyack, New York