Motivating struggling learners to take academic risks by cultivating a family environment in a globally connected classroom.

by Whitney Crews

Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8


Motivating struggling learners is a common challenge for teachers. A struggling student is less likely to take the kinds of academic risks that are essential to grow as a learner.

Making content interesting is not enough. In my classroom, we establish a family-like environment that rewards risk and encourages participation that is free of judgment.

I begin by talking with students about the challenges that continue to get in the way. Is it an academic struggle? Was it learning to read? Is it a family issue? I also start the year by writing a letter to each student and his parents to describe what I expect their role to be as a student and that the expectations I have for them are the same as the ones I have or myself.

What is most important for their success is feeling comfortable about taking ownership over their learning by instigating new projects and sharing new ideas.




What I did well…

In my instructional sequence, I believe I am effective in giving concrete examples of how to build community in the classroom that fosters an environment where students feel safe and motivated to take educational risks. The videos I shared in conjunction with the “dailies” method, as well as my other examples, can be used with any subject, any grade level, in any school, with any type of students. Therefore, I feel I covered ideas that can be very beneficial to a variety of teachers rather than just a specific area, thus reaching and potentially helping a larger audience.

What I would do more of or differently…

Given more time, I would have interacted with my participants more.  I felt I had a certain amount of information, ideas, and examples to convey and therefore didn’t give the usual respond and share time I normally would. I also feel like I needed more energy or enthusiasm during parts of the sessions.  It seems a bit sluggish in some areas.

I still want to grow this practice by

I often share my “dailies” with other teachers to get their feedback so I can learn from how it works (or doesn’t) with their students.  I want to continue to grow in the area of motivating the struggling learner by developing new ideas for reaching my most challenging students, including those with defiant and disruptive behaviors.

About Whitney Crews

Whitney Crews, of Lindale, TX, is in her 20th year of teaching at EJ Moss Intermediate in Lindale ISD. Nineteen of those years have been in sixth g...

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