Not every student in the classroom has the same ability to understand concepts or participate in class activities. It is a teacher’s responsibility to ensure that every student has a fair chance inside the classroom. However, how can a teacher uplift their weaker students?
Elementary teachers can help inspire their weaker elementary students by instilling a growth mindset, building rapport, promoting a positive classroom environment, and encouraging them. They can also motivate their students by providing engaging lessons and activities and offering rewards.
To note, students have a variety of skills and strengths, so no child should be labeled as “weak.” This article will provide elementary teachers with ways to uplift students who might be academically underachieving in relation to their peers. Keep reading to learn more.
Carol Dweck’s growth mindset theory posits that people with a growth mindset see failure as an opportunity to expand their capabilities. On the other hand, those with a fixed mindset regard failure as a personal lack of ability.
Teachers can inspire their students, especially those lagging behind their classmates, to cultivate a growth mindset. Here are some tips from an article published by the American University School of Education:
- Let your students know that struggling with academics is normal and reminding them from time to time helps them react positively to adversity.
- Motivate your students to see any challenge as fun and exciting while letting them know that easy tasks or homework can make them bored.
- Allow your students to view the mistakes they make in the classroom as a learning opportunity. You can show your students that you also make mistakes and consider this a learning experience. This attitude might inspire them to do the same.
- Give your students activities that are challenging in nature. It would be better if you could create activities that foster collaboration among students and show that it is okay to seek help from others simultaneously.
- Set achievable and incremental goals for your students to show them that they can achieve progress.
- Be mindful about providing feedback to your students. Refrain from praising a student’s level of intelligence. This action will dishearten those who did not receive the same commendation for participating in classroom activities. Teachers should instead bestow praise on their students based on their ability and work.
Teachers should strive to maintain patience with their students, notably when they lag in class or exhibit inappropriate behavior. These students may find comprehension challenging, so teachers must be patient and understand the child’s situation.
Try to be empathetic with your students and remind yourself that all of them are trying their best. See problems as solvable and work to understand your students.
Consider discussing with your students the behaviors you prefer and your expectations, so it will not make you frustrated in case your students fail to meet those preferences.
Your students will appreciate your patience in the long run and will try their best to keep up with their colleagues.
Teachers must know their students on a personal level, especially the students needing more support. Try to familiarize yourself with their interests, lives, and career aspirations.
Consider arriving to class early or staying for a few minutes after class to chat with your students.
At the start of every academic year, one of the first writing tasks that I set my students is to write a few sentences or paragraphs (depending on the age group you teach) about themselves. This is an excellent activity as the students are free to reveal as much or as little as they choose.
In this manner, students will see that you genuinely care about knowing them and will do their best to work hard for you.
As you build rapport with your students, you must also promote a positive and supportive classroom environment for all of them, including those who are weaker than the rest of the class.
It is crucial for students to feel they are being heard and respected. You can provide this by giving constructive feedback about their work or behavior and letting them know it is okay to take risks to learn.
Always follow the tried and tested adage to praise in public and correct in private. Try to make the classroom a positive and inclusive space.
Therefore, it is paramount that teachers try to create a caring atmosphere where students feel welcome and valued. Here are some other tips on how you can achieve this:
- Address any form of bullying and disrespectful behavior
- Promote and exercise good listening skills
- Encourage all students to participate
- Reward students for meeting expectations
- Celebrate students’ achievements and effort
- Be honest and open with your students (within reason)
Your students will most likely feel and stay motivated to learn, catch up, and do their best if they can see their teachers create a safe environment for them to learn.
Suppose a student has a weak understanding of academics, and you gave an instruction that wasn’t clear to them. In that case, they will feel unmotivated to follow your instructions and reduce their participation in your intended activities.
While some may be able to understand your instructions with ease, others may need help to grasp some concepts fully. So it is imperative to be flexible when setting your student’s learning objectives and expectations.
Teachers are expected to differentiate the instructions and tasks to cater to all students’ needs. If you predict that your weaker students will not be able to access the main learning, then make the lesson less challenging for them by providing sentence starters or supplementary resources.
The topic of differentiation is an extremely extensive one, but to get you started, check out this video from the Little Learners channel. Here, you will find out what differentiation is and some examples of differentiated learning.
As a teacher, you must provide your students with a clear learning objective so they can fully understand what you expect of them and what they need to do to achieve a better grade. This clarity will motivate students to improve and foster their love for learning.
Threatening students lagging in class with consequences to elicit improved performance may demotivate them even further. Trying to motivate weak students to work harder by warning them they will not pass the grade may affect their self-esteem and classroom performance. They may not even want to go to school anymore.
Giving praise and encouraging progress goes a long way to building a rapport with your students. Even if they are progressing slowly, ensure that you notice and acknowledge any improvements.
As a teacher, you must encourage your students to perform better and provide the support they need to ensure they are learning the required topics and improving their performance inside and outside the classroom.
Teachers must be an inspiration to their students. They are more likely to be motivated if their teacher exhibits passion in their work.
Another way you can encourage the weaker students, in particular, is by sharing stories of others who overcame adversities to achieve their goals. It can even be a personal anecdote of a time in your life when you faced challenges, and what you gained from that experience. Students will be able to relate more to real-life examples and will be encouraged to hear that if others can succeed after some hardship, so can they.
Each student has a different learning style. Some can learn by looking at the text, while others can learn quickly by listening to something. Several students might want to watch and listen and may require the lesson or topic to be demonstrated in front of them to learn better.
Some students may be able to pick up their studies very quickly, while others take time to process what they are learning.
For your weaker students, the direct instructions method, where the teacher stands at the front and explains concepts while learners take notes, may not be the best teaching style.
You will need to take more of a personalized learning approach, which hinges on the fact that no child learns the same, as children learn in distinct ways and at different speeds. Learning is customized around each individual’s needs and ensures that the student’s personal experience, interests, habits, and goals are intertwined with learning methods. This enables students to learn faster and grasp content more easily.
The teacher also provides appropriate learning materials based on each student’s previous knowledge and learning style. These learning resources include videos, educational games, texts, questions, etc.
Teachers must be able to identify their students’ learning styles so they can provide the best learning method for them. They can apply what they learned by developing a lesson plan that will cater to their student’s learning styles.
To know more about accommodating your students’ learning styles to motivate your weaker students, here’s a YouTube video by M. Carla Davis:
As you learn your students’ learning styles and craft your lesson plan for them, think of ways that will make the topics engaging to your students.
There are some specific ways of learning that my students adore, so I try to utilize them as much as possible. For example, scavenger hunt activities are a firm favorite. Hide questions around the playground or school where students must locate them before answering. The idea is simple and works with any subject, so why not give it a try?
Here are some other ways you can make lessons more fun and engaging for your students:
- Play more educational games.
- Create more hands-on learning experiences.
- Incorporate more role-play activities.
- Have students present their work to the class more often.
If the class has access to technological devices such as laptops or tablets, take advantage of the numerous fun educational games that can be found online. Here are some tried and tested websites that my students love using:
The sky’s the limit when making your lessons more fun and engaging. Your weaker students are more likely to retain information when it’s presented in a fun and unique way. In addition, they are more likely to be motivated and happy to be part of your lessons.
As you employ your lesson plan and allow your students to participate in classroom activities, teachers must be able to provide rewards and recognition for the excellent work your students have produced.
This recognition could be as simple as handing out a sticker, stamping their hand with a star, or something that will tell them that they have done a great job.
Offering rewards to your students is an excellent source of motivation, as everyone, especially young children, like rewards. This motivation will also help those who lag behind the class immensely. It highlights what you expect from them and encourages them to continue demonstrating those desired actions and traits.
It is a component in the creation of a supportive classroom environment, as discussed earlier, and contributes to increased learning and higher achievement.
Realizing the benefits of praise, many teachers use recognition or rewards for almost anything their students do. And while students certainly need to hear motivational words and receive rewards to drive them forward, doing so frequently can be counterproductive.
Paise creates a sense of achievement in us that releases endorphins and makes us feel great. But the problem with overpraising is that we will likely become desensitized to this feeling and lose that feel-good factor.
Even younger students will quickly understand that praising everything they do is hollow. And over time, your compliments will lose meaning and value and not be as effective in motivating students. Therefore, make your praises and rewards genuine.
10. Use Group Work To Help Weaker Students
Group work is an activity that some higher-ability students might dread. They may worry that others with less ability or comprehension will hold them back from attaining their desired high grades. This thought essentially demotivates weaker students because they will feel like a burden to others and shy away from getting involved.
However, a study has shown that students who worked in groups developed many important skills while working collaboratively.
Group work is an engaging and meaningful method where students can learn from their peers instead of always relying on the teacher.
Setting up opportunities for group work also allows you to focus on a small number of students at one time, ensuring you can provide the appropriate support to those who might be struggling with the learning.
Teachers should provide and utilize groupings to their students as much as possible to complete their classroom tasks. Many students learn better when working in groups, and weaker students will feel at their best if they contribute toward group efforts.
Teachers must provide their underperforming students with daily responsibilities in the classroom, like handing out and collecting test papers when there is a quiz. It gives them a sense of ownership, and it will provide them with the motivation to participate in the classroom.
For instance, you can appoint one of your weaker students as a group leader or speaker in discussions. So they’ll offer instructions on your behalf or present the group’s findings in front of the class.
An excellent tip is to include your elementary students in discussing and creating expectations. When students are involved in creating classroom rules, they are more likely to follow them and hold other students accountable for their actions.
Teachers must inspire all their students, not only the students performing well but those underperforming in their class, to ensure that they learn correctly at school.
There are numerous ways to motivate their students, and it does not take enormous effort and time to do it. It is essential that they feel included and valued to encourage them to perform well in school.
- American University: How to Foster a Growth Mindset in the Classroom
- Cengage: Fostering Growth Mindset in the Classroom
- Faculty Focus: Group Work: Should Your Top Students Work Together?
- HowTo-Solution: How To Help Weak Students In Studies
- Teach Thought: A List Of Simple Ideas To Improve Student Motivation
- Voice Snap: Who is a Slow Learner?
- Western Governors University: Having Patience as a Teacher: How to Cope with Inevitable Pet Peeves
- Frontiers: Group work as an incentive for learning – students’ experiences of group work
- YouTube: Student Motivation – 20 Ways Teachers can Motivate their Learners
- YouTube: Little Learners – Differentiation in Teaching