The Reluctant Learner: How You Can Help

A reluctant learner who does not participate in energizers, rhythm band activities, dances, games, and word wall activities often does not feel comfortable enough to do so. Finding ways to lower stress so that he feels confident enough to join in the activity is important to behavior management in the classroom.

When kids are reluctant to participate in activities, there are several classroom management tips I use to help get them involved.

Give Them Some Space

If reluctant learners do not participate in energizers at first, I generally just give them some space, and most of the time their peers and carefully chosen tunes will pull them into the activity. Choosing music that is current or “cool” is the best way to get the maximum number of kids involved. Letting them take turns being the “DJ” increases participation, too.

I never require that students take turns at the word wall. It does not become an issue with the games and activities, either, because those who are listening are still experiencing the words. I let students choose the people who take the turns after them, and usually most students chosen will participate.

I don’t allow myself to get pulled into power plays – freedom of choice (to a point) is one of the things which keeps the stress level low in my classroom.

Give Them a Special Job

Several years ago my students prepared dramatic presentations in science which required them to include 25 facts about specified topics. I quickly learned that there are some students who are better suited to be makeup artists or videographers. Allowing them to do those jobs enabled me to include everyone in their area of interest and strength, and that is why the assignment was fun for everyone – and a huge success.

With word wall songs I also try to utilize special talents. One year I had a student who was not interested in reading words, but he could beat box. So I set him up with a microphone, and we read the words to his beat. It was great, and he was eager for Word Wall time every day.

Choosing a reluctant learner to be in charge of some of the equipment - a light saber pointer, video camera, or Ipod dock - is also a good way to get him involved. Giving him a special job makes him feel included, and he feels that he is part of the group.

Ask for Suggestions

Reluctant learners particularly respond positively when you ask for their suggestions. I often ask for help selecting songs to use with our rhythm band. The songs must be carefully screened, of course, to make sure that the lyrics are school-appropriate, but some of our favorite songs were suggested by students. Even the ones who are reluctant to participate love it when we use the songs they have suggested.

Ask Them to Teach You Something

When you ask students to teach you a skill, something miraculous happens. The dynamics of the classroom completely change because you have made it very clear that you are part of the learning community. It is empowering to students, and it transforms reluctant learners into eager teachers.

As a middle school teacher, one of the ways I stay current is by asking students to teach me the steps to popular dances which we can use as energizers. I have learned to do the shuffle (to Party Rock Anthem) and most recently have received instruction in Gangham Style (though I have not yet mastered that one yet!)

Use of the aesthetics in the classroom motivates even the most reluctant learners, and dance is the perfect energizer because it combines music, rhythm, and movement which all support memory and recall.

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