5 Tips for Dealing with a Struggling Student in the Classroom

Janelle Cox
Janelle Cox
Student with head on desk while teacher talks to them.

There is nothing worse for a teacher than to see a student in the classroom struggle. As adults, we know that when things get tough, we have to work hard and persevere. However, for children, this concept is something they must learn. According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities, when learning becomes too difficult for children, there is an increased risk of misbehavior. To prevent learning and attention issues that often occur in a struggling student, educators can use these teaching strategies to help students gain motivation and clarity in what they are learning.

Fight the Urge to Give Students the Answer

It’s easier to give a struggling student the answer, but if you do that, how will they ever learn? Give students the tools they need to find the answer themselves. Show them how to simplify concepts or hang instructional posters on the wall to help students figure out the solution themselves.

Give Students Time to Think

Often when educators pose a question, to the class, hands immediately pop up with eager students ready to answer. However, I’ve found that if you wait at least three seconds, positive benefits like correct responses and the number of volunteers increases. Give struggling students some think time; this uninterrupted silence can help students come up with an answer themselves.

Teach Students Perseverance

Keep struggling students working by teaching them how to persevere. Instead of giving up when they get stuck on a problem, teach them to use a variety of different learning strategies until they work through the issue. Hang up posters of tips and strategies that students can easily refer to when they are struggling.

Use Instructional Strategies

Students who struggle can be supported by learning a few instructional strategies. For example, students who struggle when reading can learn how to simplify concepts by chunking – breaking up words or using visuals. Students who struggle in math can use manipulatives like tiles or coins that are tangible to help when learning difficult concepts.

Keep Students Working

The key to effectively dealing with a struggling student is to keep them working. Teach students how to take it one task at a time, use a variety of different strategies to help when they get stuck, and use the “ask three before me” strategy: Students should ask three classmates before the teacher. When students learn to keep on working even though it may be difficult, they will foster a growth mindset – the ability to embrace challenge.

One of the greatest joys for an educator is when they see a struggling student persevere. The moment a student realizes they can work through anything is the moment a teacher knows all the work put in was all worth it.

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