Getting kids to tackle tough stuff

So, my lack of blogging might be one indication that I am having a challenging year. After 15 years of being a teacher of an “elective,” my course is now required for high school graduation. I know everyone feels super sorry for me!

But really, wow, what a change this is for me! I am daily wrapping my brain around IEPs and 504 plans and lack of motivation and court-ordered attendance and general surliness. Sure, I’ve had some of “those kids” before, but this year there are a whole bunch of them! Ay, ay,ay!

One thing that has been blowing my mind is how little stamina some kids have. How little adversity they are willing to endure. Grades don’t matter to many of them, so I can’t use that old carrot anymore. I have to find ways to get these kids to just TRY!

I have discovered that if I ask them to read anything longer than a sentence or write anything down, they shut down and say “I can’t.”

Well, I came up with an idea to trick them a bit into using some reading strategies. The results weren’t perfect, but they were so much better!


What I wanted them to read were some brief descriptions of scenes from the novel we read in class. But I knew from my prior failures that I’d get a bunch of guessing or blank papers (I’d also get lots of 100% tests but those kids will be my concern another time…).

So, I forced them to break the task down into smaller chunks by drawing pictures first, then answering the questions about the passages.

Are some of you saying “Yeah, Placido, DUH!”? Well, that is fine, but for me this was a big ah-ha moment!


  1. Hi Jennifer! I am just trying hard to meet the kids where they are. It won’t do anyone any good to lament about “these darn kids nowadays!” All I can do is try to serve them as well as I can! Thanks for the comment!

  2. Hey Jeremy! You know, I can’t say I am having a bad year. In many ways it has been an AMAZING year! But just some new challenges for me. I feel like things are starting to come together. And since Spanish 1B is a one semester class I get to try again next semester and do better! 🙂

  3. Sounds like an effective solution! I feel your frustration because I’ve gone from teaching 6th and 7th grade introductory Spanish (a “fun” elective where nobody cared what I taught!) to high school English Language Learners (oh the pressure!). I’ve encountered and been frustrated with just what you are finding in terms of lack of academic stamina, lack of confidence, lack of work ethic, etc. And yes, I’ve hardly blogged at all this year! So you are not alone. Way to hang in there and keep finding ways to help those kids!

  4. I find the same dilemma. 🙂 Last year I told a written story first in a PowerPoint and then had the kids unscramble cut up sentence clusters to figure out where each went. Then we went over it as a class. I gave them about 10 minutes and they actually did great and had to read to understand where it went in the story. It might be another option every once in awhile. 🙂

    The trick would be to turn reading into something they have to do to accomplish the overarching goal of the activity, much like using the Language to teach the kids about other stuff in class, right?

    Sorry to hear it’s a rough year. Your post definitely resonates with me.

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