Oh my darling, reluctant learners, there have been so many of you. I don’t know where to begin.
have had some systems in place that helped. (What am I going to do in 5th grade??) While the systems evolved over time, they had the same principal behind them:
There are positive consequences in life.
I expect my students to get their work done. I don’t harp on them or nag them. Quite the opposite actually. I want them to learn they are responsible for themselves. The best tool for that? Friday Free Choice! As the week goes on and I notice work that isn’t finished, I’ll ask, “How are you going to finish that by Friday?”
I watch students take their work to recess voluntarily. I watch them look ahead to see what they are expected to do the next day and get started early. AND, I watch kids that just don’t seem to care. Then, Friday comes. The students have to show me everything is complete and correct. Once it is, they can have free choice. The first week of school, one or two kids get it. The rest of the kids watch longingly as they try to finish their work. Then, I before they go home, I’d staple all their work to my weekly report and check whether they finished it all and send them on their merry way.
Some kids parents would start to be an encouragement factor asking if they earned free choice that week. But for my most reluctant learners, it took months before they got on board. Months? How can I let kids not finish their work for months?
What I love about the Friday Free Choice system is that the kids that don’t get free choice, get tutoring. As the numbers left working dwindle, I have a table full of kids that I can help and talk with. I don’t get mad at them and express disappointment. I use this time to get to know them, to help them with skills they need help with, to find out how to
manipulate motivate them. I ask questions like, “ If When you get free choice next week, what will you play with?”
I find some of the reluctant learners want attention. Some need confidence. Some need focus. Friday Free Choice helped me give them those. Some Fridays, I spent the time just pointing to the next problem.
Moving into 5th next year, I’ll be teaching Math to three classes. I won’t really have the option of Friday Free Choice. But, I’m sure I’ll figure out a way to incorporate the principal that there are positive consequences in life into 5th grade math.