Here are a few resources that have been helpful to me as I learn more about "resistant students".
I have the words in quotes because they are many causes and reasons why a student might appear resistant to the teacher.
I ordered Resistant Students: Reach Me Before you Teach Me because I agree with what the book overview says and what a reviewer says about the book. Building trusting relationships and personal connections with all students is critical to engaging them in learning activities. It is especially true about the students who are hard to reach. I remind myself to stay calm, remain focused on the task, and to show empathy and understanding.
Sometimes the obstacles students face when assigned a task can feel overwhelming. This is when a one-to-to conference with the student is necessary. These conferences can be held during the independent portion of the workshop or before/after school.
At the outset, I don't really know what is preventing a student from writing. Hopefully, our discussion will begin to unraveling the knots that are preventing the student from making progress. The knots could be about how the student feels in the classroom, with the academic expectations, or about his or her relationships with other students. There might be some negative feelings toward me as well. Conferences like these are different than the usual conferences you hold during class. They can be difficult but they are worth the time and effort put forth on both my part and the student's. My goal is for the conference to positively impact our relationship and the student's relationship with the writing process.
During this conference I am building and strengthening a trusting relationship by offering individual help. This will allow personal connections to be made between between us.
Goals for the conference:
My first goal for this conference is to learn about the student. I believe that it is helpful that the student know you care more about them then the essay that they will produce.
The second goal is to take the student through the writing process and boxes and bullets template step by step.
A third goal is to acknowledge and accept the student's ideas when you ask them questions and they respond.
I worked with a student for an hour after school. During this time he was successful in completing his boxes and bullets plan. He went home and came back in the next morning with his draft completed. Later that day, he was my number one teacher helper assisting students in the classroom who were stuck like he was the day before. His enthusiasm for writing after our one-to-one conference was as contagious as his resistance was the day before. In this conference I took the student from the beginning of the writing process through the completed boxes and bullets 5 paragraph template.
Steps to Overcome Writer's Block
The student I conferenced with was an intelligent, academically capable student. His resistance to writing the essay were based on the fact that he didn't have a "special" place in his home. Here is how the conference screencast went:
I said, "OK, I get that. How about you write about your least not special place?" This captured his attention and I even got a little smile out of him as he imagined his least "not favorite" place. I suggested why don't you think about a place in your house that is better than the other places?" He came up with his kitchen. "Perfect," I said. Write 'My kitchen is a favorite place in my house.' here in the introduction next to the claim statement. Now let's generate some ideas why it is your favorite place. What can you do in the kitchen?" He said, "I can grab food." Awesome, write that here next to the three reasons. Now what else? He thought and said, " I can make food." Alright. Write that idea here next to the first one. Now come up with one more idea why your kitchen is special. He thought and thought..." I reminded him that he had told me that his dad made enchiladas for his birthday. I asked him if his kitchen was a place because it's a place where he shares meals with his family? He said, "yes." "OK, jot down ' a place where I eat with my family. "Great. You have your three reasons (Special Place: Boxes and Bullets 1). Good job.
Now let's go to the second box. Here you are going to write your first main idea why the kitchen is your favorite place. This is where you are going to begin explaining to the reader your reasons. You will want to start with a transition word like first. Why don't you write 'First, my kitchen is my favorite place because I can grab stuff." He did that. Next, you have to elaborate on that main idea by giving examples. Those are the ideas that go next to the bullets. So let me ask you a question. "What do you grab in the kitchen?" He said "I grab stuff out of the cupboards." Excellent. Write that here next to the first bullet. "What kinds of things do you grab" He said, "I grab Wheat Thins." Perfect, write that next to the second bullet. What else do you grab? He said, "I grab things out of the refrigerator. "Nice, Ok, write that example next to the last bullet. Good job. You are finsihed with planning what you are going to write for your second paragraph.
Let's now plan your third paragraph. In this paragraph you will explain to the reader the kinds of food you make. You said your kitchen is favorite because it's a place where you make food. I want you to jot that down in the box starting with the word 'Second, my kitchen is special because it is a place where I make food.' After he did that I said, "Now I am going to ask you some questions so you can think of the things you make. What kinds of things do you make? He said, "I make things in the microwave." Ok, write that next to the first bullet.
We continued working together until he had his Special Place Boxes and Bullets completed. At that time he was feeling good about his progress. I asked him if he thought he would be able to use his plan to write his flash draft and he said yes.
The student walked home with his completed boxes and bullets plan in his backpack.
Having a one-to-one conference with this student was very successful in helping the student reframe and redefine his relationship to the writing process. He received the extra support that he wanted and needed. He successfully completed his draft and was in the position to help other students with writer's block in the following days.