Students in the middle, the ones who are smart but lazy or unmotivated, often fall through the cracks. How do teachers reach these chronic underachievers?
Outstanding students receive lots of praise and recognition for their ability to meet high expectations. Students who struggle academically get extra attention, whether that means more one-on-one time with the teacher or a plan between the instructor and the parents to help them improve.
While the middle-of-the-road kids are doing just fine, they also may have the most untapped potential. Find out some ways to engage and motivate underachievers to become top of the class students below.
1. Encourage the student to take responsibility for their school work and behavior.
It may become a habit for a student who underachieves to call on their parents to come to the rescue. Work with the child’s parents to ensure that they don’t intervene every time he or she forgets a homework assignment or acts out in class. The student must learn to deal with the consequences of their actions, and sometimes that means learning to fail.
2. Offer thoughtful feedback on assignments.
Instead of simply putting a satisfactory mark on a paper or test, take time to explain to the student what steps they could have taken to achieve an excellent score. Don’t forget to also include what they did right! By focusing on successes and giving them specific feedback on how to improve, teachers can help underachievers see their potential and inspire them to be more.
3. Set personal goals for the student.
If intrinsic motivation doesn’t come naturally, talk to the child’s parents about a reward system for reaching new goals. Even have the student come up with some of the goals and potential rewards! Make sure you are clear that you are coming up with this plan because you believe the student has a lot of potential.
4. Identify the student’s strengths – and praise them.
Underachievers are quick to recognize their weaknesses and things that are difficult for them, but they need someone to point out their strengths. Don’t give empty praise, but make sure you’re recognizing assets as well as new achievements in areas of weakness, no matter how small. Increasing their self-confidence will no doubt encourage them to work harder.
5. Engage their passions and interests.
Many students think “I’ll never need to do math in my head” or “I can just look this up” when it comes to challenging material. However, you can help apply subjects to real world situations. Whenever possible, relate lessons to things of interests for underachievers. For example, percentages are good to know when shopping a sale, and mastering physics can help a baseball pitcher achieve maximum power. Suddenly your lessons will come to life for them.
Next time you encounter a student whose laziness or lack of motivation gets in the way of amazing grades, consider these steps. Helping underachievers can be one of the most challenging parts of teaching, but it only takes one caring teacher to propel a so-so student into a motivated superstar.