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Helping left-out children

Discussion in 'Primary' started by JR42, Mar 1, 2011.

  1. In almost every class I have taught, there are one or two children who feel left out by the others. There are different contributing factors in each child's case, but the children have this in common: their friendless state makes them very unhappy. I would be very interested to read about how other teachers approach this situation. What strategies do you find most effective?
  2. karentee

    karentee New commenter

    I've found this more noticeable in smaller schools, or 1 form entry schools with small class sizes, if you don't have a friend and there's only 10 to choose from you're a bit stuck. I agree it's much harder as the children get older and as they become more individual in their ideas and tastes and maybe don't want to change their ways just to fit in. It's difficult when parents ask for you to intervene because, no matter how hard you try, you can'tmake children be friends.
  3. inky

    inky Lead commenter

    That's very true.
  4. I agree. IMO I am always reluctant to try and force the situation as well. I wouldn't want to be forced into 'friendship' with somebody I don't get along with and I wouldn't expect children to!
  5. mystery10

    mystery10 Occasional commenter

    OP, I think it's great that you care about this. I am the parent of a child who you would probably have called "left-out" for nearly three years, but this seems now to be resolving itself. It's hard for me to pin-point if school could have done anything differently; in an ideal world they probably could have done, but there is no proof that this would have made any difference. But nevertheless I set out my thoughts on the kind of things that might have helped.
    Some children need much more time to feel "comfortable" with others, and have quite a quiet presence in the group once accepted. They don't get into one of the groups until they are "comfortable" on a one to one basis with at least one member of the group.
    If you consider the structure of the school day there is not that much time for the "shy" child to warm up and make a real connection with another child. Depending on how children are seated during lesson-time you might be making it harder for the "shy" child to make a connection with another child. Also, depending on how playtimes and lunchtimes are organised this could be making it harder for them too.
    "Shy" children are also often quite particular about who they play with, until they really get into the swing of things and come out of themselves, and then the fussiness seems to reduce. The poster who says you cannot force things is right. But if you spoke to the "shy" child and their parents you might find out which child or children they would really like to be friends with, and you might be able to think of some ways making this happen in an apparently natural fashion e.g. a short lunchtime activity in your classroom once a week doing something which you know the shy child and their "victim" both like doing and where you can engineer it so they sit together. I know I'm scraping at straws here but there might just be something you can do. Or it could be that you know that one of the children already attends a particular club and you encourage the other one to join. Just giving them something in common might do something to spark the beginnings of friendship.
    In the younger years I think organised playground games can help. OK you might think well this isn't developing friendships as it is too structured, but anything that gets the left-out children included is good. It boosts their positive feelings about themselves. Also, the more other children see kids hanging around on their own, the more they think they are "weird" and avoid them.
    I do sometimes think that some schools need to re-think the notion of sitting children in lower, middle and upper ability groups which are fixed all day for all subjects. This can over-promote certain friendships e.g. the child who is lucky that their bestmate is in the same group and always sits next to them, and prevent others .e.g. the girl who ends up being the only girl in the class on that particular table and struggles to get in with the girl friendship groups as a consequence.
    There may be some things that you can do to make a particular child seem "cool" in front of the others. e.g. at the lower end of primary you often find that teachers also seem to favour some children and not others - the more popular kids get chosen more often to be special helper, or take the register back, or take the class toy home. If you start to favour the underdog you might find that their self esteem rises and their popularity with others does too.
    Or with older children if you are asking them to research a particular topic and bring things in and talk about it in some way to the rest of the class, you might be able to help the left-out child focus on something that the others will definitely find appealing and interesting and thus raise their profile with the others that way. The left-out child might have been so left-out that by this stage they don't know what will or won't appeal to other children in the class.
    And never assume what these "left-out" children are really like once they have friends and come out of their shells. They can be extremely extrovert in lots of ways, great performers, and they might become so noisy you wish you never had tried!!
    It is very sad, but sometimes the problem is caused by parents who exclude certain children from social gatherings outside school. Hopefully this effect wears off as children get older, but certainly if you are the only girl in the class who was not invited to a girly gathering that weekend it's not going to help you socialise well at school the following week. There's not a lot you can do about this, but if you are aware of it you might be able to think of something to counteract it and which demonstrates to the parents that the left-out child is a desirable playmate. A dance which needs practising outside school so that it goes well in a performance is a good one to persuade this type of parent of the benefits of including the left-out child.
    ps. don't forget that the left-out child who does not appeal to talk much to you or others might still be great at singing lustily in the choir, or bellowing learned lines out on stage. Don't assume the mouse role for the child all the time or you will definitely contribute to the breeding of a mouse.
  6. clear_air

    clear_air New commenter

    If it's really bothering you, and you feel that it is upsetting the children's ability to learn and settle in your class, you could always try some direct teaching about what it takes to be a good friend, what a good friend is, etc, under your PSHE?
    I had a very difficult class once, with many, many (oh, so many) little 'characters' who didn't get on, and I found circle time (my version!!!) very useful in binding the children together as a cohesive whole,and giving the children a chance to talk through what had happened at playtime in a structured way. The class moved on to be lovely up the rest of the school!!!!
    And as mentioned above, you never know how the children themselves feel - I have a little boy of my own now, who doesn't seem to fit in very well, but he never seems bothered about it. (obviously, I'm waiting for him to come crying on my shoulder one day... [​IMG]) Some children are more sensitive in this area than others.
    Good luck!
  7. I have never experienced this in any schools that I have worked at /trained at/volunteered at.

    Does the child do any clubs outside of school or go to other children's houses to play? I often find the children who are 'left out' the most are those who don't go to any clubs (e.g. beavers or brownies where often whole groups from a school attend) or are never allowed to go round other children's houses/have children come to play round their house.
  8. lillipad

    lillipad New commenter

    I've never solved this one. Sometimes there are kids who just don't click with other children in the class. I have one little girl who is very emotionally immature and is way behind her peers who are all about Hannah Montana and horses and make up, but there i'm not going to encourage her to develop the same interests just to fit in - she's her own person. But then on the other hand, I can't see a way in for her, because if the other kids do take her on, it's because they've been asked by an adult and not because they want to.

    I have also met children who isolate themselves, who will refuse to play with others and then complain they have no one to play with, or will be nasty to other children and then complain and it's difficult in that situation to say to this child "it's mainly your own fault!" lol. If anyone has the answer please share!
  9. razziegyp

    razziegyp New commenter

    I believe in being as open and honest with children as possible and I do, in fact, tell them that I thinks it's their fault/attitude if that's what it is. I explain the meaning of 'To have a friend you have to be a friend' and feel they ought to be told where they are going wrong if they are. Mind you they are Y6 and can cope with it more, but I don't go pretending it's either all everyone else's fault or that their attitude is fine when it's not.
  10. mystery10

    mystery10 Occasional commenter

    Hi, I said in an earlier post on this thread that seating arrangements could have a big impact - either positive or negative - on left-out children. I mentioned fairly rigid seating in lower ability, middle ability, higher ability groups potentially being a problem. Pink flip-flop said she had never come across this arrangement in the many schools she had worked in. It is quite usual in my children's school, from Year 1 onwards. Is this not a "standard" practice then these days?
  11. mystery, it has been the case in most classes in the schools I've worked in(not mine!)
  12. What I mean by that is that the children are not in the same group for absolutely everything every single day.
    They have maths groups, reading groups, writing groups, table groups. They are often mixed up to work in different ability groups and in our school we have different groups depending on the area of maths (e.g. number or shape).
  13. I have a child in my class who plays with no one, won't play with other childen when they ask him and even sits on his own either reading or doing nothing during golden time. I try hard to involve him, but he doesn't want to know. I am trying to engage him during lessons, as he just doesn't seem interested, but even when I ask him what he likes to do at home he just says ' I don't know'. He has been like this since he started school. His parents say it is just him and I don't want to force him to play with people, but it is very sad to see. I can honestly say I have never seen him smile. I asked him which is his favourite lesson and he said lunchtime, but he usually just stands on his own doing nothing, declining any invitations.
    He will talk during guided reading and in facts shouts out the answers to questions I am asking to other children because he is so keen (reading is the one thing I found he likes) but it is like getting blood out of a stone getting him to reply to any questions for anything else. I use talk partners so he has support when talking, but it is so hard to keep him involved.
    Apart from maths setting and guided reading the children mainly work with their talk partner, so they get a good range of different children to work with.
    I would be interested to hear any advice too.

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