Igniting Critical and Creative Thinking

How to Reach Unreachable Students


I’m sure there has been a time during your teaching career, (and if not, hang on there probably will be) that you’ve encountered an unreachable student in the class. But what is an unreachable student, and how can they be identified? An unreachable student is one who does not participate in a class or make any effort to do work. Typically, this student has “checked out” and refuses to engage with their peers or in-class interactions. As a teacher, this is a heartbreaking situation. You know this student needs to be reached out to, but how? You can teach your student to be an achiever


Tips for the Situation

Every morning before class begins, make an effort to meet with your students and greet them at the door. The first few moments before class starts sets the tone for the rest of the day. Make sure that it begins on a positive note where students feel happy to be at school, eager to learn and interact. The same goes for the end of the day. Stand at the door again to tell your students goodbye and let them know how glad you were to have them in class that day. Just as you begin the day on a positive note, ensure that the day ends positively as well.


Next, be intentional about getting to know your students. A great way to do this is by giving them an interest learning survey. This allows you to differentiate for your students according to their special interests, and how they learn best as well as their overall attitudes. Use these interests to incorporate them into your curriculum. For instance, if a student is a huge Braves Baseball Fan and the team played a game recently, ask the student what they thought of the game, or give a math problem with the name of the team in it. If they like art, have some activities that incorporate art. Everything you learn about your students can be applied to your teaching. This makes each student feel seen and valued in class.


Positive Affirmations

Give your students positive affirmations regularly. Once again, students will feel like they matter and therefore will put more effort into their classwork as well as overall interactions. Acknowledge your students’ progress and hard work by making positive phone calls to their parents. Phone calls should not always be about problems. What parent or child constantly wants to hear of the wrong? No one. Be sure to make those positive calls, they make a big difference. Trust me.



Be an Achiever to help Unreachable Students

Use tough situations in the class as a way to teach students about growth mindset. Teach them what it means to be an achiever. Let them know that to be an achiever, you don’t have to be rich or even famous, but rather someone who works hard every day to achieve his/her goals. Everyone knows someone who is an achiever. Encourage them that they can be one too! I think a growth mindset plays an important role in reaching that unreachable student and letting the child see themselves differently. If you have a struggling student, try my “What is an Achiever” activity in class! I love that it can be used to target one specific student, through a whole-group approach! It’s perfect for all elementary grades. 


Create a Safe Environment for Unreachable Students

Teach students calming strategies to use when they feel overwhelmed or scared. Let them know and feel that your classroom is a safe place for them. However, some issues run deeper than we realize. If you have tried all of these methods and a student is still “checking out”, then I recommend meeting with the School Counselor. They can provide you with the additional support that you and your student need. Last, remember to never take a situation personally. Something might be wrong in the student’s home or they could be dealing with an issue you aren’t aware of. Every child is reachable, some just may take longer than others to reach. Don’t give up, and always keep reaching! 

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hey y'all

I'm Susan!

I’m Susan Morrow and I help overwhelmed teachers create thinking classrooms where students discover the joy in learning and achieving.

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