Okay, don’t take it personally… I’m sure that kids don’t really hate your lessons… but if every now and then one or two kids seem disaffected then here are some common reasons why. These were all come up with by students themselves so I’m pretty sure they’re a reliable guide as to why (some) kids (sometimes) hate (teeny weeny parts of) your lessons…
1. It’s boring!
This is the number one reason, and one I’m sure we can all relate to because as adults we also tend to zone out when we’re bored. Students most often complain that lessons become boring when they feel like they’re too abstract or entirely irrelevant to them (surely you too wondered why you needed to learn algebra when you were at school. When were you EVER going to use it..)
The solution: Find ways to keep the lesson relevant to the students. Teach Macbeth in the context of a modern day murder mystery or turn J-Lo into Mary Queen of Scots. The most important thing to remember is that if you’re bored teaching them, they’re probably bored learning too so thinking of ways to keep it interesting.
2. It’s too hard!
If your material is pitched at the wrong level, whether it’s too easy or too hard, you’ll soon find that your students become disengaged and stop trying to learn. Students hate to fail and many say they’d rather not try at all than give something that they think is beyond their capabilities a go only to end up failing.
The solution: Plan carefully to ensure that you can differentiate your lesson for the different abilities of learners within your class. Always have a couple of extension activities up your sleeve for those who finish work very quickly and think of ways to make the lesson accessible for less able students, without making them feel they’re working on a dumbed down version.
3. I don’t want to work on my own!
Whilst as teachers we can often see the benefit of asking students to work alone as we think they’ll concentrate better and be less likely to be distracted, the students don’t always see it the same way.
The solution: Where it’s practical, group work will often work wonders for students’ enthusiasm. Students relish the opportunity to work in a collaborative style to aid their understanding and enjoy being given the opportunity to negotiate, explain and communicate ideas with their peers in order to generate a better understanding of a project.
4. I hate learning stuff off by heart!
Whilst students can understand the need to learn facts and figures in order to pass exams, they also tend not to enjoy it. It’s a very unfulfilling way of learning.
The solution: Get creative. Instead of expecting your students to learn hard dry facts by rote, turn it into a game or competition. Split the class in two and see which half can remember the most French adjectives from the last lesson, or which team can best describe the process of glaciation. There are hundreds of online resources you can use to add a bit of spice to the less exciting parts of the curriculum and where you really have no inspiration just try ensure that your lessons are planned so that you don’t do too much of the tedious stuff in one hit.
5. There’s never enough time, there’s no point!
Students get really frustrated when they’re finally getting their head around a difficult concept, or really getting stuck into a project and then then bell goes and they’re off to a different lesson entirely. It’s pretty frustrating for the teacher too!
The solution: Plan your time wisely, ensure that where possible there is enough time and that everything is fully prepared so you don’t waste half the lesson sorting out basic admin. If instructions are complicated, ask students to read through them beforehand for homework and to come to class ready with any questions. Try and plan lessons involving projects that might run over for before lunchtime or the end of the day, and be prepared to stay behind a little to help your students wrap things up. If your school’s up for it, plan an enterprise week or similar where students can work on major projects for the whole week which draw on a wide range of subjects across the curriculum.
What other reasons might students fail to focus in lessons?
Do you have any further suggestions to add to those above?
Do you have a specific trick you use when you’re ‘losing’ a student?