Friday, April 2, 2010

Tough Nut to Crack

I'm all for a challenge, but this one is tough. I have a student who completely freezes when called upon in class. I mean, I've had kids who get really shy and give the shoulder shrug in hopes that I forget I asked them a question. I've dealt with kids who try to lay low in hopes that if they aren't looking at me, then I'm not looking at them. But never, in my 15 years in the classroom have I had a kid who actually leaves the classroom when spoken to.

And believe me when I say that I've emptied my bag-o-tricks on this one. That is until the other day I made myself invisible too.

Students were doing some review work and I went and sat next to this student who was burying himself in his work-almost to the point that he was under his paper.

He was low; so I got lower.

He is quiet; so I got quieter.

*in a faint whisper*
"Why don't you answer me when I ask you questions?"
"Because I'm embarrassed."

"Why are you embarrassed."
*no answer*

"Have kids made fun of you before?"
*nods head*

"Has anyone made fun of you in my class?"

"Do you know what I'd do if they made fun of you in here?"

"I'd beat 'em up."
*looks up puzzled*

"Ok, so I won't beat 'em up, but I will NEVER allow a student to make fun of you, ok?"

"So let's set a goal. Before the end of the year, I want to be able to ask you a question from across the room and you answer it, alright?"

And off I went. I had sat next to him before and spoken quietly, but I had always been louder and more conspicuous than he was willing to be.

Yesterday, he used his vocal chords.


Raymond Johnson said...

Those are wonderful moments, aren't they? I've had similar breakthroughs (but none quite as tough) and I can only say...I'm jealous. You and that student enjoy the rest of the year!

Unknown said...

Here's an idea--tell him ahead of class the topic or even exact question you are going to ask him. That way, he will have time to prepare.

David Cox said...

Yeah, they're great. This one's definitely taken some time. But he's coming around.

I really don't think it's about preparing, although it would help. He knows the answer to many of the questions I'd ask him. If I asked his name, he'd freeze. It's simply a matter of speaking in front of his peers. It's getting better, though.

Mr. H said...

It forces the issue a bit, but you can try the following.

Ask questions that require choral response. Make an arrangement so that everyone else is in on it. You will ask 5 questions, of which everyone answers only up to the 4th. On the first few questions watch to see if he answers. Make general commands addressed to everyone and say stuff like "I can't hear you" or "I won't move on until I hear everyone's voice." Make sure he's participating along with everyone else. He'll be conditioned to answer questions with everyone.

Give a softball 5th question. Watch as he's the only one who answers. Give him immediate positive feedback, then have everyone go high five him.

May be do this at the end of class so the high fives are not as disruptive and you can have a few minutes to have a quick talk with him. I don't know what kind of rapport you have with students, but it's the kind of goofy thing that I've done with the past.

I don't know the student and am no psychologist so not sure how it'll affect the student, so proceed with caution. It may also not be your style.