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Visualization for Comprehension

Visual learners will certainly understand thisbut truthfully, anyone, regardless of learning styles, can benefit from utilizing visualization strategies for learning and comprehending. Whether working with young readers or helping to break down and make sense of math problems, conjuring up and discussing the images that correspond to certain topics or concepts can help learners conceptualize what would otherwise be too abstract to comprehend. Below are various strategies that parents and educators can use to help students cash in on their mind’s eye for learning.

  • While reading aloud, ask children to pause at the end of a paragraph, page, or section to participate in an oral recollection of what they have just read. Ask prompting questions, such as:
    • After reading about these characters, how are you picturing them in your head?
    • What do they look like? Sound like? How are you visualizing their actions?
    • Where are they? What does the setting or their surroundings look like? Have you been to a place like that? 
    • Based on what they are doing, what do you think the weather might be like? Can you tell what time of year this is taking place?
    • What descriptive words help you to specifically visualize the story’s plot?   
  • To motivate collaborative discussions and increase perspective-taking, perform the visualization in small groups. Then ask students how the images in their heads might be similar or different from their peers’ images. 
  • Ask students to sketch, draw, or paint a scene from the book/text that they are reading. Stress the fact that this practice is not about artistic skill; it is more about conveying an understanding of the text through images or pictures. For students who are reluctant to draw, ask them to create a diagram using simple symbols or stick figures to represent the actions that they visualized. 
  • Have students swap drawings and discuss the different scenes with questions like:
    • What part of the text do you think your partner drew?
    • Which characters are present? Where are they in the image?
    • Did anyone seem to draw the same scene or section?
    • How are these two scenes depicted similarly or differently?
  • Similarly, ask students to draw or sketch predictions for what they think will happen next in the story. This makes for rich collaborative discussions, and it also provides parents and teachers with an opportunity to check in on comprehension. If a student’s prediction is off the walls, then it’s probably time to reread.
  • When reading math word problems, ask students to pause for a second before beginning their calculations. Prompt them to simply sketch the terms of the word problem using hash marks, symbols, or icons to represent the numbers they will be working with. Encourage students to talk through the problem while sketching; this way teachers can catch and clarify any missteps before students begin the actual math calculations. Visually speaking, a quick sketch helps students to conceptualize the otherwise abstract calculations and helps them to comprehend how the numbers and functions are represented.
  • Parents and teachers can also use manipulatives or tokens to represent math problems. Just like a sketch or drawing, the physical manipulatives help students see the variables while they are physically calculating terms.

Distance Learning Support for Students on the Spectrum: Part I

Distance learning, as well as the potential for hybrid and the return to in-person learning, has presented students with many unknowns. Educators and families know a lot more about how to successfully support students than we did last spring; however, there are always areas for improvement and aspects that we may be overlooking. 

 

It is especially important to ensure that students with autism are receiving a greater level of support during this time. It is inevitable that students with autism are experiencing more significant learning challenges right now, which places them at a greater risk for learning gaps. Because of the challenges that distance learning brings, these students are impacted on a greater scale than their general education counterparts; however, there are things that educators can do to help students navigate the remainder of this precarious school year.

 

Building community remotely

Fostering relationships and building a positive rapport with students over Zoom has been one of the greatest hurdles of distance learning. Teachers are doing anything and everything to engage students and to reach them on a personal level. This is a critical element for student success, especially when it comes to students on the spectrum. Knowing your students means knowing their learning styles, their preferences and interests, their communication styles, and their areas of strengths and weaknesses. For students with autism, understanding and accommodating these ins and outs of learning can mean the difference between engagement and disengagement, comfort and discomfort, success and failure. 

 

To better reach all students, teachers should consider taking the following measures:

  • Present students with a survey on learning styles and make an effort to use that information for differentiation as much as possible. 
  • Use examples, samples, and texts that incorporate student interests, especially instructional resources that connect to your students with autism on a personal level. Making sure they are acknowledged, appreciated, and understood is the first step to building strong relationships.
  • Arrange alternative or additional modes for participation and communication. Some students, especially those on the spectrum, are highly uncomfortable on Zoombeing on camera or speaking in front of peers can be an unnecessary stressor. Some teachers may find it helpful to arrange additional office hours or check-in times to make sure students feel comfortable participating in a smaller group. 
  • Remind students of the chat function for participation as wellthis is a great way for hesitant or shy students to answer and ask questions without “putting themselves out there.”
  • Acknowledge a job well-done and provide specific examples of the growth that you have seen with your students. Those learners with unique educational needs, especially those with autism, often find that school has been a place of perpetual struggle. Therefore, when you recognize students for their accomplishments, no matter how small, the outcome of this positive reinforcement can be life-changing. 
  • Reach out to parents about their child’s learning history and preferences. As we all know, parents know their children best. So when it comes to getting to know your students, parents can provide a wealth of knowledge regarding a student’s interests, hobbies, academic and personal needs, friend group and peer history, etc. Teachers may want to set up a few parent Zoom meetings to help build a positive rapport there as well. Open and consistent communication between parents and teachers is essential for students with autism, especially during these difficult times.

Gaming in the Classroom to Boost Engagement, Part I

Creating engaging lessons and activities for learning is no easy task. With today’s technology, the Gen Z group has access to the most realistic and stimulating gaming graphics, digital art programs, and communication platforms. Their familiarity and use of technology is practically innate. Therefore, it is no wonder that holding students’ attention in the classroom has become more and more of a challengecompared to the allure of the glowing screens, our books and assignments do not hold a candle to their preferred methods of entertainment. So, one way for educators to look at it is: If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!

 

Ideas for the English/history/world languages classroom

  • Take a page from the NCAA and create a March Madness-inspired bracket to lure your students into the current novel, play, or works of poetry. This can work in several different ways. Teachers can have students rank their favorite texts, readings, or chapters from the unit. Then use Google forms to see which work progresses to the next round based on class votes. Students can also make predictions about which characters will come out on top at the end of a tragedy, conflict, or quest. This type of bracket works especially well during a Shakespeare unit and/or when teaching students about various battles during The Civil War, WWI, WWII, etc. The key for engagement is to hype up the bracket to get students investedconsider an Elite Eight winner, Final Four winner, Championship winner with school-related prizes. Teachers should also think about either creating a giant visual bracket on the classroom wall or a website for digital class brackets.
  • For tech-savvy social studies students, challenge them to create a digital recreation or simulation of specific historical events. For example, instead of making a typical timeline, students might choose to show Germany’s progression across Europe with a visual map simulating territory takeover. Similarly, using video programming, students can act out various historical events and arrange or splice the clips with background music, captions, historical photographs, or Google Slides. With these projects, they’re putting their technology expertise to great use while demonstrating their knowledge of the event and/or time period.
  • Students are all about their social media presence right now, so how about utilizing those platforms to demonstrate their knowledge of a major historical figure, author, or literary character. There are hundreds of websites available for classroom use involving fake instagram templates, Tiktok videos, and pretend Linkedin pages. While these aren’t exactly games, the use of such platforms can be equally engaging for students. Some ideas include creating a Spotify playlist for a specific character or historical figure. Songs should represent key quotes or important aspects of the person’s life. Recently, a student of mine did a fabulous “Desdemona’s Breakup” playlist using Spotify to write an alternate ending for Shakespeare’s Othello. I’ve also found that mock-dating profile templates can be a great, creative option for students to demonstrate their understanding of a character. Teacherspayteachers.com offers a free “Fiction Mingle” template for this exact purpose!

Another engaging activity stems from the ever-popular escape rooms. Students with experience using gaming simulation and other digital animation programs can create and share virtual escape rooms with other students as a way to review foreign language terms and vocabulary. There are numerous websites, apps, and even options for using Google Forms to create digital escape rooms for the classroom. Teachers can create various levels of escape rooms to challenge students based on skill set, level of difficulty, and individual or collaborative groups.

Student Data in the Time of Covid

The sudden switch to virtual learning last spring threw us all for a loop. Students were perplexed, parents were stressed, teachers were overwhelmed, and schools were ill-prepared to roll out an entirely new structure for online learning. However, as time passed, we’ve become somewhat more accustomed to our new normal. Virtual learning is not as personal, effective, or sustainable as the beloved in-person classroom instruction that we didn’t know we’d miss until it was gone.

With the commencement of quarter one, it has become even more apparent that virtual learning is not only leaving much to be desired, but it’s also leaving much more to be learned. Recently reported data suggests that, across the board, students are not thriving. Worse, the achievement gap is widening, meaning that students who were statistically already hindered by certain disparities are feeling the negative effects of virtual learning even more. Math scores have dropped. Literacy scores have dropped. Enrollment is down, as is the rate of students currently passing their classes.

However, behind every data point is a story—a story that emphasizes the human component, for which standardized tests can simply not account. For instance, some secondary students are working part-time jobs to help with bills while a parent or guardian is sick or unemployed, meaning that attendance and participation may be spotty. Some students are experiencing food insecurities due to the fact that families are financially struggling during business and hospitality closures. Some students are experiencing social-emotional stressors and psychological impacts that they may be unfamiliar with or ill-equipped to deal with on their own. The scenarios could go on and on, but the point is this: data is open to interpretation, especially during these unique circumstances.

Here is what we can do:

  • Teachers should utilize office hours to check-in with struggling students about more than their missing work. Yes, it is important that their work be submitted. However, it is arguably more important to ask why a certain student is struggling to compete or submit assignments. Are they caring for younger siblings? Working outside of school? Caring for an ill family member? Having issues with technology, wifi, or connectivity? Are they used to in-person accommodations? Teachers know when students are struggling by looking at the grades and quality of work, but a more significant data point indicates reasons for their struggles—this is worth investigating.
  • Parents and teachers should utilize school counselors and other support services for struggling students. Data simply points to areas of need, but it doesn’t provide suggested interventions or recommendations for additional support. The counselors can be invaluable when it comes to providing insight into a student’s individual circumstances and needs.
  • Teachers should consider creating their own surveys and check-in forms to ask students how they think they’re doing and what they’d like to work on. Yes, Map scores and other standardized tests may indicate standards in which students are underperforming, but student voice surveys are able to tell us a lot more. Ask students about their study habits, their reading interests, learning styles, collaborative preferences, parent involvement, etc. This information can help teachers adjust and modify their instruction and assignments to account for student choice and ability level—all of which help to demonstrate important data regarding student achievement.
  • Schools or individual teachers should consider sending out a separate survey for parents or guardians to complete. Ask parents about their child’s study habits, individual strengths and needs, extracurricular activities and/or obligations outside of schoolwork, experience with technology, organizational weaknesses, procrastination habits, scheduling difficulties, etc. All of this information will help to inform educators about each student’s unique circumstances, which is inherently tied to his or her performance data.

Zoom Differentiation and Accommodations

Virtual learning certainly has its challenges, especially when it comes to differentiating in the virtual classroom. For students with special education accommodations, teachers will need to get creative in order to account for every student’s unique needs and optimize learning opportunities. Thankfully, there are strategies and methods for providing special education accommodations in Zoom—we just need to think outside the box and modify what each accommodation looks like in the virtual realm.

Zoom Chat: Since we are no longer physically in the classroom, proximity, prompting, and cueing accommodations pose a bit of a challenge for instructors. Yet, nothing has changed in terms of the student’s needs. In fact, students who struggle to focus and/or stay on task may need the prompting and proximity accommodations even more now that they are sitting in front of a screen. Online learning does not allow for physical proximity; however, teachers can utilize the chat function to maximize student engagement and provide an alternative form of proximity, prompting, and cueing.

  • Reaching out: The Zoom chat can be used to individually reach out to specific students with prompting accommodations to spur participation and to rephrase a question when necessary.
  • Clarifying: The chat also allows teachers to check for understanding by providing a platform for asking clarifying questions, follow-up questions, etc.
  • Advocating: Teachers should remind students of their chatting capabilities so that students with accommodations can advocate for themselves and speak up when they need assistance.
  • Tracking: The chat also acts as a data tracker; teachers can modify their settings in Zoom so that chats are saved. This allows for teachers to review correspondence with students and share questions and check-ins with parents. Teachers can also use saved chats to track the number of times a student initiates a task, asks clarifying questions, responds to polls or exit responses, etc.
  • Reminding: Teachers can use the Zoom chat as a method for reminding students of their extended time or reduced workload accommodations as well. This allows teachers to discreetly remind a certain student that his due date is extended without drawing attention to the student’s accommodations in front of the whole class. **Just be certain that, when chatting with specific students about these accommodations, you have selected the student’s name from the dropdown so that the chat remains a private, 1:1 conversation.

Breakout Rooms: The grouping function in Zoom can also be beneficial when ensuring certain special education accommodations are offered. Teachers have the option to manually assign groups, which means that students with special education services can be grouped with a para educator or with other students who have the same accommodations.

  • Variance: Teachers should try to avoid always grouping special education students together, however, as to avoid drawing attention to certain small groups or stigmatizing students who need additional support.
  • Oversight: Teachers can randomly assign groups using the “automatic” option when creating breakout rooms. Then, while students work, the “host” can pop in and out of groups to act as a “check-in” for students with that accommodation.
  • Mobility: Teachers can also move the para educator from group to group during breakout room sessions so that every student receives supports throughout the collaborative activity.
  • Discretion: Breakout rooms also offer opportunities for differentiation. Teachers can modify assignments and link adapted materials in the chat to send to specific breakout rooms. From the chat link, students can click on the shared Google doc to access the modified material. This function can provide students with resources such as word banks, sentence starters, outlines, graphic organizers, glossaries, etc. The key is that each student who receives these accommodations will have access in a discreet manner and can choose to use the materials as needed.

Breakout Room Benefits for Teachers Pt. I

This new normal that we are all trying our best to become acquainted with has us dodging curveballs left and right. Teachers are especially frazzled right now. Think about it—seasoned educators have been tasked with completely modifying every known skill set on a dime, with little to no training, all while under the community’s microscope. For a field that tends to attract Type A personalities, all of these hurdles have undoubtedly been overwhelming for professionals who pride themselves on being proactive and prepared.

 

While the move to full-time virtual learning involves a plethora of suggested technology for educators, the sheer amount of platforms and resources can be daunting. One saving grace I’ve found while “Zooming” through the first two weeks of the 2020-2021 school year is the breakout room function during Zoom classes. What is essentially an automatic “small groupinator” at the click of the mouse actually proves to be a life saver for many different reasons. Read on for strategies and methods for utilizing breakout rooms in Zoom.

 

  • Attendance Check: Taking attendance, a seemingly routine daily task, is not so simple anymore. Between the constant Zoom doorbell, the screen sharing, and switching back and forth between countless open tabs, attendance is often the last task a teacher is focused on during class. However, the use of breakout rooms during Zoom meetings makes attendance much more manageable. While groups are meeting, discussing, collaborating, etc., teachers are able to scroll through each group’s participants and check off for attendance on a physical roster. This has been such a time saver, especially since Zoom participants are alphabetized by first name, while our grade books are alphabetized by last name.
  • Student Discourse: Breakout rooms are also beneficial for spurring student discourse. My first week of virtual instruction was beyond painful due to the lack of participation. Virtual learning is awkward for many reasons—it’s new and unfamiliar, students are videotaped, technology glitches occur regularly, it involves a look inside everyone’s personal living spaces…the list goes on and on. However, once I put my students into breakout rooms for discussions, the small group aspect allowed students to share willingly without the pressure of 30+ people staring.
  • Time to Think: The small group aspect also allows students to have some wait time before speaking; they are able to process and gather thoughts without feeling rushed or pressured.
  • Collaboration: Virtual small groups also encourage collaborative efforts. Before entering breakout rooms, I review participant expectations and guidelines so that everyone is on the same page. Group members are responsible for contributing, listening, summarizing, and sharing. Group members are also presented with accountable talk sentence stems to help spur productive discussions.
  • Participation: Sometimes, students are tasked with summarizing their group’s discussion individually as an assignment for participation. This way, teachers can ensure that even the more quiet or reluctant students were able to get something out of their classmates’ discussion groups.
  • Random Grouping: The breakout room feature allows teachers to group randomly or strategically. This means that students have opportunities to work with different peers each time. It also means that teachers can thoughtfully group students based on academic or personal needs.
  • Special Needs: With a special educator or para educator on the Zoom call, teachers can purposefully pair students who might require extra guidance or support with an additional adult in the breakout group.

Checking In Virtually

Now that the school year has come to a screeching halt for many students, digital learning and online instruction is becoming the norm. However, in addition to content-specific questions and online discussion threads, educators can also take this time to remotely check in on students’ well-being.

 

It goes without saying that this is a crazy time full of many uncertainties. For children and teens, this global pandemic can be even more troubling, especially since the adults—the ones with all the answers—seem to have no answers at this point. One way that teachers can lend an ear, even if digitally, is to post daily check-ins using a platform like polleverywhere and Google Classroom.

 

With Google Classroom, students are likely already enrolled in their teachers’ courses and may be set up to receive messages from Google when teachers post. Therefore, the process for getting started with daily check-ins is fairly seamless. Teachers can simplify the process initially by creating a Google form that asks students to choose an emoji that represents how they are feeling today. This process takes mere minutes to set up and can provide key insight as to how children are doing at home during quarantine. Educators have many options within Google forms in terms of answer responses. For a simple poll, teachers can ask the following questions:

  • Using the rating scale, rate your level of comfort/understanding of the poem I posted yesterday.
  • Using the drop down options, select the emoji that corresponds to your mood right now.
  • Did you have enough food to eat today, yes or no?
  • Based on our digital packet, which concept are you finding to be the most difficult? Select all that apply from the drop down menu.

 

If teachers want to get more of a detailed response from students, they can select the “short answer” option in Google forms when asking for responses. One idea for teachers to check on students’ emotional well-being is to utilize the short answer function. Ask students to list their pit and peak or rose and thorn of the day. In essence, teachers are aiming to identify what is going well at home and what students may be struggling with more specifically. Google also provides options for teachers to provide an example of their own response. This allows students to see that everyone is in this together—we are all experiencing highs and lows while schools are closed.

 

Furthermore, educators can then use this data to reach out to students or families directly who may be struggling more significantly. Whether due to a lack of resources or the emotional impacts of isolation, teachers can relay these concerns to school administrators and/or community members to provide necessary resources and aid to families based on their needs.

 

Another way to utilize these web-based platforms is to open assignment threads to allow students to post back and forth to one another. Some English teachers are finding that they are still able to practice book talks and literature circle conversations during the school closures using these features.

 

A word of caution, since teenagers will be teenagers, especially when cooped up at home—teachers should set clear guidelines for participation. Make sure students know that their posts will be viewed by all members of the Google classroom and that the instructor (teacher) has the option to revoke any individual’s posting privileges if necessary. Finally, ask parents to join in the classroom discussion threads, posts, polls, etc. Google Classroom has an easy option to “invite guardians” through MCPS, so with one click, parents can join in the discussion as well!

The Art of the Apology

An interesting thing happened recently when I asked my students to write an apology note to the substitute for treating her disrespectfully—they had no clue what to do. As I distributed paper and demanded that they begin, I quickly realized that my students were not being intentionally uncooperative. They truly didn’t know how to approach a genuine apology letter. I was appalled, to put it lightly. This woman, who in my absence, had tried her best to help my 7th grade students with the work I had left, was ignored, defied, mocked, and ridiculed, yet the class had nothing to say? Was this due to a lack of social awareness? Had they never heard a formal apology before? Was their reticent response just a new level of entitlement? I was not prepared to teach them about the art of a formal apology—I’d wrongfully assumed that they knew how to tackle this task.

Cut to a quickly thrown together, yet comprehensive, mini-lesson on the key components of an apology.

  • Begin with the actual apology, “I’m sorry…” DO NOT follow up or continue your apology with the word “but.” This simple subordinating conjunction completely negates the actual apology. It implies that you are not fully remorseful, and even worse, writing “but” indicates that you believe you have an excuse for wronging the other person. Tell students to explain themselves at a later time if necessary; it shouldn’t be part of the apology.
  • Take responsibility and genuinely own your mistake. Admitting your error is half the battle when delivering an apology—until you acknowledge your misstep, any apology will be considered insincere.
  • Owning your mistake also means explicitly stating what you did to hurt the other person. This requires children and teens to be reflective and to truly consider how their actions had a negative impact on the other person. Stating your mistake shows the other person that you have acknowledged their feelings and put yourself in their shoes to identify how you may have hurt them.
  • Offer a solution to the mistake—this could mean promising to do better next time or perhaps to try your best not to repeat this mistake again. Sometimes the solution comes easily; however, it is also kind to ask the other person what you could do to mend the situation. If their response is reasonable, follow through on that request.
  • Ask for forgiveness. This can be difficult because it requires kids to leave themselves unguarded and open to rejection. They may worry that the other person will claim that they can’t forgive at the moment—this is okay. Asking for forgiveness doesn’t mean that you’ll always get it, but putting the ball in the other person’s court after apologizing is pretty much all we can do.

Word Choice and Why it Matters: Part I

As an educator, I am always trying to convey the importance of word choice in students’ writing. Finding and using appropriate terms and phrases is critical—not only because it is almost always a significant component on an essay rubric, but because word choice in writing is a reflection of one’s ability to communicate precisely and effectively. Furthermore, a student with a knack for appropriate word choice in his writing is typically known to have a higher rate of expressive vocabulary. Regardless of a student’s future college major or career preference down the road, the more comfortable a student is with his ability to communicate, the more confident he will be when navigating the professional world.

 

Since there are such direct links between vocabulary and intellect, it strikes me as odd that there isn’t more of an emphasis on acquiring vocab skills in the primary, grade-level English classes these days. Of course, students will often be confronted with bolded or underlined terms in a class reading, accompanied by a brief definition in the footnotes, but this level of vocabulary exposure is hardly effective. Vocabulary taught in a vacuum, relating only to the current text in front of them, does nothing to provide students with a robust repertoire of word usage. Instead, these vaguely “brushed over” terms are taught briefly in isolation and then cast aside, rarely to be revisited.

There are strategies, not just for English classrooms, but for all subject areas, that can help students build vocabulary without the typical rote memorization that comes to mind from past decades.

 

Bring back the word wall

In elementary classrooms, we used to see brightly colored vocabulary words taped to the front wall, encouraging students to use these terms in conversation. This same level of visibility goes a long way in the secondary classrooms as well. The key for success is to present students with these terms and then connect them cross-curricularly. If foreshadowing is on the English classroom word wall, the teacher should make a point to relate this term to other, perhaps more familiar terms, like forecasting or hypothesizing in science, or indicate, imply, or symbolize in math or world history. The intent is to build connections to as many familiar terms as possible so that students better understand how this new word could be used to more precisely convey what they mean.

 

In addition to the word wall display, teachers should also instruct students to capture the new terms on paper, along with the related terms that they already know. Essentially, they are constructing a word web to illustrate subtle differences in terminology and how certain scenarios would utilize foreshadowing, while a similar scenario would be better suited by saying “hypothesizing.”

 

Color coding these word webs and word walls in the classroom can help students begin to categorize terminology as well. Perhaps science-related terms could be highlighted in green, while history/civics-related terms could be displayed in orange. Below is an example of how one word could translate through multiple contents: English class: adaptation; science class: evolution; math class: modification; history class: transformation.

 

Each of these terms is related to some sort of change from the original. An adaptation in English class means to take a classic work and rewrite it through a different lens. As students see the relationship between these terms, they are better able to distinguish the subtle differences and how each term would be more suitable to a certain scenario.

Management Strategies for Noncompliance

Strong-willed children bring character, fierce energy, and clear opinions into the classroom, which are all positive attributes that help to stimulate engagement and learning. However, when fervid determination crosses the threshold of acceptable behavior, teachers are often left in a sticky situation when deciding how to proceed with a defiant student.

Keep a level head

When given an instruction or directive, such as, “Please sit in your assigned seat,” students are generally expected to oblige or at least attempt to follow the request. You may be met with an eye-roll or exasperated retort, but 9 times out of 10, the request will be a non-issue. However, when a student is outright noncompliant, it is important that the teacher consider the potential catalyst of the defiant response. Often, this type of isolated obstinance, especially when it occurs out of nowhere, is a response to some unknown frustration or concern. The frustration may not even be related to this particular class or the directive. Because the trigger is typically unknown, teachers can assuage the emotions by considering how to de-escalate the situation before reacting. This is easier said than done, but suggestions might include:

  • Walk away to provide the student with a moment on his own to consider the request or directive; this also allows you to take a breath before asking again.
  • Provide the student with a reasonable alternative, such as sitting in his assigned seat or sitting up front away from other students.
  • Calmly rephrase the directive in a soft manner that is only audible to the individual child. Too often, non-compliance arises from a public power struggle, so a defiant student is less likely to comply when he feels as though he is performing as “the rebel” for an audience of peers.

Consider the individual personality involved

When confronted with what could be considered defiance or task-refusal, teachers should pause to consider whether the student is actively defying the command, or if there is a misunderstanding. For instance, a student who struggles with auditory processing may fail to respond immediately. On the outside, she may appear to be ignoring you, but in actuality, she is simply interpreting the request at a slower rate. Similarly, a student with ADHD may also need a few additional moments or some repetition to grasp the directive—this isn’t defiance. Students with autism may also present as noncompliant at times. Typically, this refusal is linked to a lapse in social cues and/or a need for further clarification. It is not unusual for students on the spectrum to require an explanation of why they are being asked to do something. Again, this is not meant as a defiant remark. The “why” question is quite literally asked as a means of gaining further explanation in order to meaningfully invest in the task.

 

Provide alternatives, but hold your ground

When a student has dug his heels in, another option is for the teacher to present opportunities for student choice. This doesn’t mean going back on your word. If a student is refusing to complete an assignment, provide him with the choice to complete it now or at lunch. If a student is hesitant to read aloud, give her the choice of which passage she’d prefer to read. A student who is demanding to go to the bathroom can go, but only after he’s completed the front of the worksheet. These options allow students to negotiate, but only on the teacher’s terms. In essence, you’re giving an inch without permitting the student to take a mile.