9 Ways to Help Struggling Students Unlock Their Potential

As a new teacher, learning how to address and help students who are struggling behaviorally is crucial. It can be frustrating for both teacher and student, with lots of stops and starts, but with practice, consistency, and clear communication, you can coach your students to stay focused and on track. Check out these nine ways to help struggling students unlock their potential.

This post was adapted from a longer article, 101 Tips for a First Year Teacher, by Teach For America alum Maggie (Pettit) Kizer and her sister, Emily.

1. For kids who get distracted easily, offer them a quiet spot away from others to work.

2. For students who take a long time to complete a task, set a timer and tell them what you expect them to do during this time. This method often motivates students to get their work done and also reminds you to check in with them.

3. Be very clear about your expectations and consequences.

4. Get to know the stories of the families in your classroom. Background information and family history will help you better understand a child’s actions.

5. Find something every day on which to compliment your struggling students.

6. Give students a job in the classroom that makes them feel special and important.

7. Keep a daily star chart to keep students motivated. If they are working hard and following directions, they earn a star on their chart. When they earn a set goal amount of stars, they earn a reward.

8. If a group of students is misbehaving, instead of focusing, compliment their neighbors on how hard they are working. This will show students that positive, rather than disruptive, behavior gets the most attention.

9. Find opportunities to form positive relationships with difficult students. Often they are just looking for some attention. Rewarding table teams or individuals with lunch with their teacher is a great thing for younger grades. 5th graders and above may find this “uncool,” but get to know them in other ways by coming out at recess or break and playing soccer or sharing a talent of yours with them.

How do you work with struggling students?