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5 Strategies To Support Struggling Students

Marcia Carrillo, Teacher Mentor, shares how to help the students who need the most help.

Students Don’t Want To Fail

If students would have done their work, they wouldn’t be here.

No excuses!

They wouldn’t be here if they just did their work the first time.

If they came in person they would have been more successful.

These are some of the comments that I’ve heard frequently throughout the year and during summer school, from teachers and support staff.  My response was, “Even during a pandemic, when things were out of students’ control and teachers were learning how to teach online?”

Many students didn’t return in person for various reasons.  It wasn’t necessarily a choice the student even made. Students usually do not intentionally fail courses and hope to be in summer school.  As I reflect on these comments and my experience with students, I saw and heard different stories and perspectives from students.

Who are the students who fail?

The students in my class were hardworking, quiet, and rarely spoke. I was actually shocked these students had failed a class and was curious as to why. So I asked students individually and privately why they thought they failed? Several students shared with me that the class I was teaching, Biology,  was the only class they failed.  They also said they did not attend in person during the school year.  They received all A’s and B’s in their other classes. Some students shared that the teacher spoke too fast and they got lost and behind and didn’t know what to do. There were technology and WiFi speed issues that would not allow pages to load and small chromebooks that make opening multiple pages challenging.  Not all students were taught technology skills, yet teachers jumped in and expected students to understand Google Classroom, Canvas LMS, EdPuzzle, Flipgrid, Padlet, Pear Deck, Nearpod, Google Workplace, and a variety of others. 

Five Strategies To Support Struggling Students

When students are failing I like to suggest to the new teachers who I mentor, to try at least five things, instead of saying it is all up to the student.  

  1. Reach out to the student and ask what seems to be the problem via text, email and phone, consider using Remind or Google Voice. 
  2. Contact the parent and the counselor. Invite small groups of students to “study sessions” during class time.  
  3. Have weekly check-ins with students and interact with students about what is going well and what they are struggling with.  
  4. Use a Google Form and ask students to check in and share something they learned, a question they have, and one thing they struggled with. 
  5. Encourage students by leaving them video feedback, such as Screencastify or audio feedback, using Mote.

As educators, I believe one of our jobs is to encourage, support and reach out to students and families especially when no work is being done or a student is failing and not making educational progress.   So, how do we as educators help all students to access their teacher? I believe every student wants to pass and be successful.  If a teacher reaches out, I am confident they can create a plan to help all students achieve.

Grading With GRACE

G.R.A.C.E. is an acronym I use to share the philosophy we should consider when assigning grades.

Goodwill

Reasonable

Accommodating

Culturally Responsive

Equitable & Empathetic

About The Author

Guest Blog by Marcia Carrillo.  Marcia has been a secondary educator for over 30 years and is currently teaching Independent Studies at an alternative high school in California. She has earned her B.S. in Physical Education and Biology and her M.A. in Organizational Leadership .   She is passionate about student centered learning and using technology to improve learning and engage students.  She can be followed at @MCarrilloEDU on Twitter and Instagram

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