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10 Ways to Help Solve Hibernating Students

Via Edudemic

All teachers know a certain type of student: the hibernator. This is the student who walks in and immediately puts down his his or her head, making it very clear they do not want to have anything to do with you, your lesson, or his classmates.

Peter DeWitt’s October 2014 Education Week article, “When Students Hibernate From Us,” refers to Russell Quaglia and Michael Corso’s work in “Student Voice: The Instrument of Change” to explain these hibernating students. Without a doubt, DeWitt does an excellent job of summarizing their research and outlining suggestions for waking hibernators; in an effort to supplement and build on his work, Edudemic has found some proven, effective ideas for engaging these slumbering students.

Use Active Learning to Engage Hibernating Students

The University of Minnesota’s Center for Teaching and Learning recommends that instructors use active learning for engagement. The center admits that students at first will resist (and educators may wish they had just let the sleeping beast lie), but certain strategies exist for overcoming that resistance.

Active learning is worth the initial resistance, because it ensures that students are learning. Not only do administrators look to see whether teachers are engaging all students, it is an educator’s responsibility to reach them. These recommendations are a good starting point for teachers unfamiliar with active learning:

  • Commit to using active learning and communicate confidently about it.
  • Begin implementing these strategies early in the year. Make them a part of your expectations.
  • Explain the reason for using active learning and how it benefits students.
  • Frequently use this type of learning so students know you are serious; they will accept their roles more readily.
  • Give clear directions. State the goal, time limits, procedures, and partner/group members’ names.
  • Post instructions in a visible location for student reference.
  • Divide students into pairs or groups yourself.
  • Start with low-impact strategies like think-pair-share or in-class writing exercises.
  • Then, move into more involved active learning activities.

10 Proven Best Practices to Try Out

Student engagement is one clear solution for hibernating students. Back in May, Edutopia featured a video on Cochrane Collegiate Academy, a Charlotte, North Carolina middle school in “How to Engage Underperforming Students.” The school is a remarkable example of how an institution can form strategies to increase student outcomes through engagement.

Significantly, the academy’s educators focused intensely on instructional tactics and professional development with the school’s academic facilitator and doubled student performance over the course of three years.

The teachers also developed Interactive Learning Non-Negotiable, a model of 10 best practices used in every lesson, every day:

1. Essential Questions: Determine the lesson’s intended goal. Use one essential question per lesson that students must answer by the end of the lesson. Make sure the question is at the highest possible level of learning. To be effective, these queries should require analysis and application, an extended response, and cover multiple skills.

2. Activating Strategy: Get students actively thinking or connecting to that day’s material. Cochrane teachers often use video clips to immediately engage students by piquing their interest and then helping them connect to the lesson.

3. Relevant Vocabulary: Limit vocabulary to that which is appropriate for your students, and ensure that it is actively used in context. Students should interact with the words throughout the lesson. Teachers must use strategies for teaching vocabulary that are relevant and effective, including a graphic organizer or an experience.

4. Limited Lectures: Limit lecture time to between 12 and 15 minutes, and then engage students in a short activity. Alternate lecture times with student activities such as turning and talking, drawing a picture, summarizing or describing the lecture, or discussing with partners or groups.

5. Graphic Organizers: Help students visualize and categorize what they’re learning with graphic organizers. Be sure to link new information to old information. Use colorful charts in notebooks, computers, or foldables.

6. Encouraging Student Movement: Actively engage students through physical activity of some sort. Possible student movement strategies include gallery walks, team work or rotating stations, “thumbs-up” or “thumbs-down” activities, or having them perform body movements to answer questions.

7. Higher-Order Thinking Questions: Use at least three higher-order thinking (“HOT”) questionsduring the lesson. Ensure that you are challenging students; ask the same question, but consider requiring advanced learners to respond in an alternate way. Vary response strategies by having students write, answer in a classroom or partner discussion, or complete homework.

8. Summarizing: Close the lesson with a summary and assess students through their answers to the essential question. Determine whether you need to re-teach or can move on. Use a variety of summary assessments, such as writing prompts, short activities, discussions, illustrations, or exit tickets.

9. Rigorous Activities: Designing challenging activities and moving at a brisk pace is a must. Eliminate idle time by creating lessons that are 100% active.

10. Student-Centered Approaches: Clearly demonstrate that your students are the center of your focus and attention. Use technology as a tool to engage students and help them to see real-world applications of their learning. Approach teaching as a partnership — your job is to plan, and your students’ job is to work and learn. Consider yourself a facilitator rather than a giver of knowledge.

Putting Hibernators into Learning Mode

Peter DeWitt was on the right track in his EdWeek blog post on this subject. Students do want to follow their own agendas and fly under the radar. Some will sit at their desks and text, some will sleep, and some will coast through their classes with a high enough score to squeak by without failing.

Teachers at all grade levels and in all subjects have seen these students that Quaglia and Corso refer to as, “stalled — they have neither a picture of where they want to go, nor the energy for doing much in the present. Such people lack a sense of purpose and rarely experience a sense of accomplishment in anything they do.”

By using active learning strategies and Cochrane’s proven Interactive Learning Non-Negotiables, though, you should be able to get your students out of hibernation mode and into learning mode. As Quaglia and Corso put it, “Educators need to ensure that, during a class period, every student is asked a question or somehow engaged in learning.” Try some of the strategies we’ve detailed here to get started.

This article appeared on Edudemic on Oct. 24 2014 and was written by the Edudemic staff.Critical Thinking Companion