What About The Kids Who Just Don’t Get It?

I’ve spent most of this afternoon marking some controlled assessment essays. They’re generally good and most of the pupils are working at the level I expect them to be at so woohoo, right? Right. Except for one boy. To put it simply, he just doesn’t seem to GET IT. Any of it.

Now before you all accuse me of not differentiating to suit his needs and not getting HIM, it’s important for me to point out that this boy has no SEN that the school is aware of. I’ve completed additional needs referrals for him but so far, all is fine apparently. He does listen in class. He answers questions. He “behaves” himself – I don’t like that phrase but you know what I mean. He’s not throwing pencils across the room or sticking blu-tack up his nose. He’s a good kid. But he’s failing. He’s failing English and I have NO IDEA what to do for him.

This particular assessment requires him to compare two non-fiction texts. One is far more challenging than the other and the whole class, being a middle-band group (mostly C/D borderlines) have been given all the help I’m allowed to give. They wrote their notes in detail, the notes were checked by me, they all seemed good and they were all heading in the right direction. Now I’m reading this kid’s work and he just hasn’t got it. Again. This has happened before. He’s gone off on all sorts of tangents. Some of his sentences make zero sense, it’s like he had ten different thoughts all at the same time. At some points I’m not even sure he’s talking about the same text as the rest of us.

What do we do with those kids who just don’t seem to get stuff? Who just can’t process the particular topic or entire subject that we are trying to teach them? Having the luxury of time to teach them one-to-one might be the answer but that’s simply not possible. I can see him after school to help him understand but a part of me feels a little frustrated because I was pretty sure he understood it before. I’ll do it anyway, of course. I won’t let him fail. But I’m so confused! Maybe he’s got amazing coping strategies and manages to hide his lack of undertstanding. If so, he deserves a GCSE for just that!

On Monday I’m going to give him his work back and just ask him to read it to himself. I’m not putting the mark on it because he will instantly feel bad and I don’t want him to give up. Maybe when he wrote it he was just rushing and didn’t read any of it back? It might have been some attempt at a James Joyce style stream of consciousness piece of writing. Ambitious but not really ideal! Or maybe, like I said before, he just doesn’t get it. And if that’s true then I’m stumped.

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