You can't teach anything to someone who doesn't want to learn. As a private tutor, you're less likely to face this problem from adult students — if nothing else, they'll want to get value for their money. With children, however, it's a different matter. Fortunately, while a school teacher may not have time to overcome one pupil's reluctance, you may have a better chance. Here are five ways of re-engaging reluctant students.
1. Form a Connection with the Student
If you're offering 1-to-1 lessons, you have the perfect opportunity to find out what makes your student tick. Although it might seem the priority to get on with teaching, it's worth taking some time for making a connection — after all, if the student is resisting learning, you're not going to get very far anyway. Ask them what they're finding difficult and why they don't like a particular subject or aspect. Of course, you won't necessarily get a straight answer right away, but it's important to show you take seriously whatever they say. Eventually, you should find out what's really bothering your student.
2. Play to Your Student's Interests
As you get to know your student, you'll start learning about what really interests them — what they'd really rather be doing, whether that's playing video games, being out skateboarding or reading a comic. Whatever the answer turns out to be, and however far it seems to be from what you're teaching, you can use it as a way to engage them in lessons.
Skateboarding, for instance, could certainly be used as a way into teaching various laws of physics that relate to it. You could encourage them to write essays about their interest, or develop vocabulary around it. Try to be creative about how the interest might be applied. For instance, it would be easy to focus geography lessons through football, by relating facts about a country to its national team.
3. Get Your Student to Help with Something
One of the things that might be putting your student off is the feeling of just passively receiving the teaching. If you can find some means of giving them something important to do in setting up the lesson, and show you appreciate their input, it can help to encourage their sense of engagement in the process. Of course, this is far easier to do if you're having physical, face-to-face lessons than when teaching online. That doesn't mean there are no options if you're teaching via a video platform, but you'll need to identify something useful the student can do at their end which is important for the lesson as a whole.
4. Reward Your Student for Success
Children can be highly motivated by rewards. This doesn't have to be anything special — even the traditional gold star might be enough, though you might prefer to choose something more tangible. The important thing is that the student understands that their effort is being recognised. It's very important, though, that the reward is being given for a specific achievement, not as a bribe to stop negative behaviour, which would only reinforce the behaviour. For young children especially, it can be effective to create a progress chart. If a reward seems a long way off, they can follow their progress and see how far they have to go.
5. Make It Clear They Haven't "Failed"
If a child has consistently underperformed, it's very easy for them to take on the identity of the "failure". They can't do the work, so what's the point of trying? This can become a vicious circle that prevents the child from ever improving. Make it clear to the child that it doesn't matter what they have or haven't achieved in the past — it's what they do next that counts. This can give them the impetus to respond to the other methods of re-engaging your reluctant learner. Register with TutorExtra for more tips on how to make the most of your tutoring sessions, both with eager and reluctant learners.