In a class of 29, there’s bound to be one student who challenges me. This year, that student and I and his family have had many conversations about what he needs in the classroom and how we can ensure his time there is useful for everyone involved. This particular student does not much care for the subjects we study, has a bit of trouble academically and has several friends in the class whom he would rather chat with. Thus, it’s been a struggle to figure out how to keep him engaged and focused so we can lessen distraction all around.

My support teacher and I have tried different strategies throughout the year and their success has varied. In Friday’s class, we decided we had enough room in the room to give this student his own table to work at, alone, and away from his friends. Although he was reluctant, he moved to his new seat in the front of the room. This lesson turned out to be one his best in the year so far; he participated, engaged in the main activity and presented well! I made sure to congratulate him on his effort and share my hope that he’ll be able to keep it up for the next few weeks as we close out the year.

As I reflected on this lesson, I wondered what might have made it different. Honestly, just like any human, this student has his good and bad days and this may have just been a better one than usual. However, I also feel that working on his own made a difference in how much he participated and the effort he put in. I know that there are many arguments for collaboration and group work in the classroom; many students learn better and work better with their peers than on their own. However, when taking into account student needs, sometimes, we just need to give them lots of time on their own so they’re able to stay focused.

I hope I am able to keep this student engaged throughout the rest of the year, but in the meantime, he’s given me a lot to think about when it comes to collaboration and/or individual work in my classroom…

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