Supporting At-Risk Students
School systems apply various descriptors to determine students at risk of failing or dropping out. Unfortunately, necessary procedures often delay interventions for such students. Thus, classroom teachers find themselves working with students in need of serious interventions and at times feel ill-equipped to work with such youngsters. This week, we offer tips to promote positive interactions between teachers and at-risk students.
This Week's Tips
Consider the Classroom Environment for At-Risk Students (Monday)
Create a calm classroom environment. Classrooms resonate with an aura that both adults and students sense immediately. The classroom atmosphere is influenced by many factors, including decoration, cleanliness, seating arrangements, access to supplemental learning materials, and lighting. Assess the classroom environment you have created through the eyes of a troubled youngster, then alter the environment accordingly. Consider playing calming background music at the beginning of class. Display interesting artifacts around the room, including examples of student work. The addition of a few houseplants will help to create a warm atmosphere.
Clearly Convey Expectations to At-Risk Students (Tuesday)
In a friendly manner, share your expectations clearly and frequently. In some environments, holding class meetings to determine the rules is acceptable. However, the lack of structure and self-control that is often evident in at-risk students can force such rule-setting to be counterproductive. Consider the rules most important to how you want to run the classroom, write your expectations in positive statements, and post them prominently in the classroom. Review and discuss these rules to bring all members of the class to a common beginning point.
Give At-Risk Students Choices (Wednesday)
Provide at-risk students with choices. Outside of school, they are often accustomed to making their own choices. In school, when choice is often subtracted from the equation, these students can become frustrated. Avoid the ensuing confrontations that stem from such situations by always providing these students a choice. If a rule is broken, correct the student with phrases such as, “John, would you prefer to take your seat now or join me for lunch?” Frequently, given choice, the student will choose to conform to the expectation. Naturally, this applies to specific situations. If other people in the classroom are threatened by the student’s behavior, the student loses the right to choose.
Motivate At-Risk Students with Real Life Connections (Thursday)
Instructional objectives with realistic connections are helpful to all students, especially those labeled “at-risk.” Form these connections from two aspects. First, build connections between instructional objectives and activities you know an at-risk student enjoys. For example, you may approach a history lesson from a fashion perspective or segue into a lesson about velocity using dirt bikes. Such connections capture the attention of the at-risk student and increase the chances that objectives will be mastered. Secondly, build connections between the instructional objectives and life skills. Acquisition of such skills equips students to live independently, with or without a high school diploma.
Accommodate At-Risk Students In Need of Space (Friday)
At-risk students are often distracted by their surroundings, especially other students. Often, these students have little tolerance for the slightest encroachment into their personal space. In such instances, accommodate a student’s need for his or her own space by working with the student to create a spot somewhat separate from the rest of the class that this student can consider to be his or her own.