Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Thinking Ahead...One Problem at a Time

For most of us, school is over for the summer! Even though this happy time provides a chance to sleep a bit later and at least some relaxation, it is also a time of renewal for many teachers. We spend this time thinking through the events of the last school year and making plans to improve our teaching practices. Most of all, we tend to mentally work through the problems that we had to manage during the past year and try to work them out.

In the blog posts that follow, you’ll be able to read about some of the  issues that teachers face during the course of a school year and perhaps learn some quick strategies and techniques for solving classroom problems while making sure that all students achieve the success you want for them.

Problem 1:

You have a student who is convinced that he or she already knows the material and does not want to participate in any activities that you have planned for the day, the week, or even the unit.


  • To engage all of your students in meaningful and relevant learning activities
  • To make sure that all of your students have mastered the material in the mandated curriculum
  • To work with the student so that he or she can demonstrate mastery and then move to enrichment material
Mistakes to Avoid:

  • Confronting the student directly in an effort to prove him or her wrong
  • Allowing the student to opt out of mastery of necessary material
  • Offending the student by not taking his or her claim seriously
  • Allowing the issue to have a negative impact on other students


  • The easiest way to avoid this problem is to make sure that you begin a unit of study by not just activating students’ prior knowledge, but also by giving an overview of the material that will be covered. By doing this, your students will know that while they may have a good grasp of the material going into the unit, there is much more material to be learned. Showing students the “big picture” of what they are going to learn is often an effective way to direct their thinking so that they can focus their attention on learning new material.
  • A brief pretest of skills and content at the beginning of a unit of study is another way to assess your students’ knowledge and to focus their attention. It does not have to be long or extremely difficult in order to engage your students.
  • Be flexible when you can. By differentiating instruction to meet your students’ needs, you will be able to individualize as much instruction as you possibly can. Remember that it is not your place to enforce compliance, but to reach as many students as possible.
A Final Word:
While it is tempting to just ignore a student with this attitude, neither of you will gain if you do this. It is reasonable to assume that you will have students who feel this way at various points during the year. With that in mind, try to prevent the problem and to honor the students' concern by assessing prior knowledge and using differentation strategies for instruction.

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