Monday, March 7, 2011

How do I get this child to focus on his work?

Ms. Dorothy,
I have a student who is fully capable of doing the work I assign, but he just doesn't focus and get it done. He can do it, he is just lazy. He has had Special Ed help in the past, but has kind of aged out of that.  What can I do to get him working at his potential?!
- 6th grade Teacher

It seems to me that it is very rare that a learning disability goes away because of age, and I don't believe that "laziness" is a qualifying condition, so it is probably not the underlying cause of his academic struggles. 

A lack of focus can result from a wide variety of organic issues. 

Perhaps a closer look at what his IEP says, or what his previous teaching team has to say will help you to see what is going on with this student.

Either way, matching teaching style with processing and learning style, and making the most of interests is the best way to support an unmotivated learner. 

I don't believe we can expect students to change their attention and focus if we aren't willing to understand and meet them where they are. 

We need to adjust the teaching to suit the needs of our students, not the other way around.


  1. Well said!!! My son is going through the same thing in 6th grade and his teacher refuses to bend his makes me frusrated as a parent to see how defeated my son come home everyday. My son is very smart and gets good grades but he gets bored easily at school sitting in a desk all day. This drives his teacher crazy and unfortunatly this causes a lot of friction between them. Teachers need to realize that each child is different and they should adjust their teaching to meet the needs of each child.

  2. Thank you Deborah! Amazing how like preschool the middle years are, isn't it?
    Kristy, it is a huge challenge to meet the needs of every single student in a large class, but it is not impossible to establish a relationship of understanding that encourages compromise on the part of both teacher and students!
    It requires a change of focus on the school's part from teaching curriculum to teaching students!