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low effort levels

Discussion in 'Behaviour' started by purpleflamingo, Feb 14, 2012.

  1. I am writing for some advice on low levels of effort and attention in class. (Year 8 but I don't teach in the UK) I have some students, in particular with one class who are not advancing much. I think partly it is due to ability but it is also partly due to lack of effort. It is difficult to pinpoint and sanction it and be consistent. And I want to get better at working with different levels of ability in one room so each child can do their personal best. Any advice on that? or on consequences since they act like they don't care much what they do. I say it's ability too since some students have different levels of being able to listen, assimilate and complete tasks but I feel that I am allowing it almost as an excuse not to try (thinking the student can't do it when they can if they try enough)
    I mean they do things like they don't pay enough attention to explanations. Like I say as it is partly ability (mixed ability class) some things may be hard to grasp but I wonder if they sometimes shut it out altogether. They don't listen to instructions well enough and do things more or less according to the procedure. They often don't complete the work or hand it in. If I ask them to repeat back or explain to me part of the instruction or the work, they giggle and give me back a mixed up bag of things. They don't ask specific questions on areas they find difficult. Also they don't read up on the material up unless I hold their hand to find the page to read. I sometimes think they wait to be told all they need but even if I stress thinking skills, they still don't work out what or how to do things. Meanwhile other students in the same class do these things, understand quickly and complete the work without problems.
    The other thing is I notice these same kids take a long time to start, usually don't complete the work or don't hand it in and often don't do homework.
    I'm trying to work with them on an individual basis like with some of the lowest class grades, I've met parents and we've set up extra help out of school but there are still a few (about a third or even half of the class) not advancing enough in my eyes and getting low grades.
    This is really stressing me out. I am trying to vary the activities and do the best I can. Obviously I want them to succeed and I am even losing sleep over it. We have generally a good relationship but they seem to see school more as play or they just want to joke around and they can't focus on work. What else (simple things - not too complicated) can I try or say to them to improve effort levels?
  2. I think the difficult thing is the line for me between ability and effort is not clear, so I don't give sanctions for work not done well but maybe I should, but what if I don't know what their best is...
    Also we did objectives at the beginning and they wrote one for this class (we did a whole lessons on your future and goals etc) but they don't look at it and when I mention them, the good ones know what I mean but the ones I have problems with, can't remember where they are or eventually find them and read them blankly or make a joke and then forget them five minutes later. (And if we were to go over that again, the others who are working fine would be listening to me repeat myself and I feel bad when they have to listen to repeated information time and again for the others who can't remember/ don't know what we're talking about.)
  3. It's like a sliding scale, I wonder if lack of effort is contagious...because it's spreading in the group.
    I welcome any suggestions or debate on this, thank you!!
  4. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    Hi Purple,
    Most of us get it somewhere or the other - there is a natural tendency for teenagers to do as little as they can get away with.
    The afl people would say that you should get the children to set their own targets. Often it is useful to set all / most / some targets (or grade C / B/ A or however you assess your students). Sometimes it is helpful to start with something fairly mechanical - deciding whether statements are true or false and correcting the false ones, then moving on to more challenging tasks requiring more of an independent response.
    Occasionally reminding children that tbheir output is worse than you would expect of younger children can have a salutary effect.
    Stick with it,
  5. Tom_Bennett

    Tom_Bennett Occasional commenter

    One strategy I find that works is to treat it like any other misbehaviour; after all, we're supposed to modify their behaviours towards learning, and anything that deters that is to be sanctioned against. So set your behaviour alarms to 'Sensitive' and make any pupil who doesn't meet your effort requirement stay behind to finish off, phone home, miss breaks, arrange parental meetings. The whole nine yards.
    Of course, look at what and how you're teaching them as a way of pulling them towards the prize, but don't forget that children need clear guidelines about how to conduct themselves in a classroom- including how they work.
    Good luck
    Read more from Tom on his blog, on Twitter, or on the Behaviour forum
  6. Thanks for the replies.
    If I'm looking at what and how I teach, what do you see as the ways to motivate students to put in more effort?
  7. musiclover1

    musiclover1 New commenter

    Gold stars, merits, marbles in a jar, points for good answers etc. (have a reward system).
    One course I went on, the teacher put a marble in a jar every time a pupil did something good, and when the jar was full he (she?) brought in a chocolate cake.
    Creative work goes down well - anything that uses imagination. So, instead of 'describe your family', you do 'describe you ideal family'. Instead of 'describe your school', you do 'make a presentation about your dream school'.
  8. Thank you music lover, that's helpful, any tips on making the interactions about effort more positive with students?
  9. musiclover1

    musiclover1 New commenter

    I would say, beware of being patronising. ('well done', when actually they could have done much better). Be as specific as you can and notice and comment on what you like (and on how they can improve). 'I was really pleased when you put your hand up today'. 'You used both colours and adjectives in your homework.' 'Next time, I'd like you to check the genders of the nouns - will you know how to do that?' If the've really done nothing good, then say 'I need you to re-do this piece of work'.
  10. Good advice, thanks! Some things I could have said today,
    "Next time you present to the class, I want you to pause and look at them more."
    "I was really pleased to see you checking the grammar explanations again."
    As for "I need you to re-do this piece of work" - I don't normally have students re-do work. Maybe this is a good step to raise effort. I am wondering what is the motivation for students to re-do work?? How can this be explained to guarantee a significantly better second time-around piece?
    Obviously if you spend a lot of time explaining that could help but then should doing and redoing be such an important part of the class I wonder? I often find students don't like to do something twice and it's a struggle to get them to give that effort too. Sometimes it seems like the second time they do it, it's now "old" work for them and the novelty value has gone, which discourages them.
    For example drafting essays is also something I would like them to guide them better on but many of them don't change much on a second draft, so I wonder how much it is worth it.
    Any more tips or debate are welcome.
  11. musiclover1

    musiclover1 New commenter

    No, I'm not in favour of re-doing and re-drafting. I agree that it's repetitive and doesn't increase motivation. I was talking about an unacceptable piece of work - let's say s.o. has handed in 3 sentences when you were expecting half a page. We were talking about raising effort levels, so if their effort is too low, you may have to put your foot down.

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