Teaching & Reaching At-Risk Students

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Part of being a good teacher is knowing how to reach as many students as possible. This lesson will help you think about what it means to call a student at-risk, and how you can best work with students who get labeled that way.

Who is At Risk?

The phrase at-risk gets used a lot in the media and sometimes in political descriptions of schools and children. Traditionally, students can be perceived as at-risk because they come from socioeconomically disadvantaged households, because they have behavioral or cognitive challenges, or because they lack family support. This lesson will help you think about strategies for reaching your students who are most vulnerable to such a label.

It is important to both consider what we are really saying when we use the phrase at-risk and to understand what students actually are at-risk for and why. Students struggle and sometimes rebel for any number of reasons, and the phrase at-risk often gets used as a euphemism for different types of social inequalities. At the same time, noticing that a student has been disadvantaged or faces particular challenges can help you get them the assistance and support they need most. As we proceed with the lesson, keep in mind that you might be making negative assumptions when you work with a student who has been labeled as being at-risk.

With that caveat in mind, though, we will talk about the following strategies for reaching students who you might find difficult to teach, help, or relate to:

  • Knowing the whole child
  • Working closely with the family
  • Accessing different learning styles
  • Using culturally relevant pedagogy
  • Spiraling your curriculum

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