Every teacher has had that class. You know, the difficult one that drains you way more than your others. If you teach elementary, it might be a difficult subject for your class, while for high school and middle school teachers it might be a certain class period. Whatever your situation, this class can make your day a little tougher.
The trouble with a difficult class is there isn’t a one fits all answer. Over the years, I’ve tried many different strategies and found that sometimes one works, and sometimes I need to use a combination of a few. Here are the strategies I’ve found to help improve my difficult classes and help me stay sane for the school year.
Strategies For A Difficult Class
- Figure out who is leading the off task behavior and figure out why. You know who the students() are who lead the way to getting the class off task. Get to know these student(s) even ask the student(s) straight up why they do what they do. Maybe a student is struggling so they lead the class astray to hide their challenges, or maybe the student is bored. Some students struggle with any down time and will get the class off topic if left with a second to do so, so give them a job to do for you when they finish a task. There’s a reason behind the behavior, so get to the bottom of it.
- Make sure your lesson is broken into chunks. Students get bored if they are listening to you talk for 20+ minutes or practicing independently for 30 minutes. Make sure you chunk your lesson to keep students engaged and moving along in a lesson. A slow lesson where students are doing one thing for too long is a sure fire way to get off task behavior. Some classes may be more obvious with being off task than others, but if you aren’t properly chunking your lessons you’re probably losing a lot of students attention in other classes as well.
- Make students more responsible for their learning. If students are the ones demonstrating how to solve a problem or explaining answers, they’re going to listen more carefully and be more attentive. On the other hand, if you explain every single thing to them they don’t feel responsibility or urgency to be on task. Student center takes some time to get use to, but in the long run has a lot of benefits.
- Evaluate the ability of your class. Similar to the one or two students who cause the off task behavior, your whole class might be off task if they are bored or too far behind skill wise to understand the lessons. Make sure you are scaffolding and fading at their level not the level of other classes or previous classes you’ve taught. Each class is unique and you should take that into consideration when planning.
- Be more proactive than reactive. If you are always reacting to bad behaviors, you are giving them a lot of attention. Instead, try being proactive by praising good behaviors and giving those students attention first. Also, if you know there are certain triggers that cause off task behaviors, do something about them before they happen. Move students away from distractions and friends, talk to the student who may be the leader of getting everyone off task before class starts, and reinforce expectations before behaviors occur. There’s a ton of way to be proactive, so think about what fits your class.
- Tell students what they should do, not what they shouldn’t. You will never be able to tell your students every single thing they shouldn’t be doing at any given time. They are smart and will find a loophole in what you tell them not to do. Telling students exactly what they should do is much easier and there are no loopholes. Be very detailed and specific if you have some tricky students in your class.
- Go into the class with a positive attitude. It may be hard, but having a negative, pessimistic attitude about this class will not help the situation. Students feed off your energy, and negative one will only fuel the negative behaviors. If they think you hate them, they have no reason to want to be better for you and they’ll dread your class as well.