Students with a short attention span often act out. We, as the ones with teaching degrees in the room, usually have to come up with plans to hold their attention and keep their behavior in line. There are so many ways to go with this, it can get overwhelming. As a teacher, I am sure you are with me here. So what do we do? Whatever it is, after our intellectual search for the right approach to difficult students, we should remember the value of one on one attention. Then, after we see the value, we should make sure and do it because it can make all the difference in the world to a child at a formative time of life.
Establish a connection. Difficult students are often disconnected at home and with peers. If you take them aside away from the class, you have the opportunity to make a special connection. It can be as simple as a checkers game to take down the affective filter and build trust or it can be as complicated as going through a questionnaire that shows concerns for why they are having the problems at issue. This is what I call “on the job” classroom management training. I have even used puppets to get them laughing. If you can establish a connection, you have all but won the war.
Work at developing trust. In class, recognize and accentuate their successes. Let the class know repeatedly it is o.k. to say a wrong answer. You are simply there to get them to “try.” Redirect as you know how to do when they are wrong but never scold them when you get a wrong answer. If students feel comfortable taking risks you are one step closer to home. Remember that developing trust usually takes time.
Visit them one on one and give them specialized feedback. If you assess the child and see they are not getting it, give the class independent work to do and gather them as well as others in that situation to a side or back table and give them one on one help. This can e extremely difficult to orchestrate and it may take time before you can make it happen. BUT IT IS WORTH IT! You will find your difficult students may come around faster than you think and no longer present the problems they presented with.
Those are some ideas I have as strategies for dealing with difficult students. Please share your insights in the comments. My hope is to start a conversation on this topic as a professional learning community.