What do you do for a student who appears to be severely unmotivated, has incomplete assignments and homework, but gets A's on tests?I've got a sixth grade student who is an apparent genius. During...

What do you do for a student who appears to be severely unmotivated, has incomplete assignments and homework, but gets A's on tests?

I've got a sixth grade student who is an apparent genius. During thed day he is lackadazical, lethargic and clumsy. He is immature and acts extremely childish: rolls around on the floor, slips out of his desk, always has his mouth open or "chewing" at the air, etc...I'm not an expert in Sp.Ed., but I am very concerned for my student. I need some help!

Expert Answers
missy575 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If he truly is a genius, then he is getting the material at light speed ahead of the rest of your class. If he is causing problems because of it, start to give him some "special jobs" just to keep him busy. Give him a couple props for his intelligence and ask him if he'd do you a coulpe of favors... in fact, you could have a colleague in another room (that's a good little walk away) that you make a deal with: have the colleague understand that every time you send Johnny down to grab a supply (make it something simple like 5 paper clips or 2 rubber bands), you need that colleague to make Johnny wait for a few minutes.

Johnny likely needs that little walk and time to just get out of the room and do something different. Hopefully that will take him out of the equation for 10-15 minutes. During that time, you get done what you need, you experience relief and when he returns, you can thank him for the great help he's been, and set him down to a task to "catch him up." The need to hurry to achieve whatever you are asking him to do might really focus him as now he's up against a serious challenge. For once, everyone else has a head start and he has to play catch-up.

He's probably a really neat kid under there, but there are kids that can truly be a pain until we figure out what makes them tick.

Another thing you could try is holding him after for a couple minutes and ask him what kind of code the two of you could agree to. Maybe you can exchange him something for his good on-task behavior. What does he want? Is he into baseball cards, Vampire books... maybe even his parents could work together with you on helping him meet a goal.

Good Luck, that is never a fun situation!

linda-allen eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This question needs to be on the discussion board, where you'll get more responses.

I have a student just like the one you've described. He is a high school sophomore, but he is very immature. I can't turn my back without him getting into some kind of mischief. One day, while I was doing hall duty between classes, he took a Sharpie and drew a beard and moustache on himself! But he is one of my top students as far as grades go.

Have you talked to his parents? That would be my first step in calming him down. Does this child have an IEP? Maybe you should talk to your guidance counselor or someone in the special ed. department to find out whether this child needs some kind of intervention.

Have you considered that he might just be bored? Can you give the class some more challenging assignments that might catch his attention? In studying "The Odyssey," I had my freshmen create their own mythological action figures. I gave them a template, and they had to draw, name, and describe superpower features of their character. Then I posted them on the bulletin board. My "special" student is not in that class, but he was so intrigued with the idea that he begged me to let him create his own character. So I gave in. It kept him busy--and quiet--for more than an hour.

Now, that's not quite a challenging assignment, but it was one that got and kept his attention. I've since learned that anytime I can give him some hands-on work, he is less disruptive. Find what works for your student.

lynn30k eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Does your school have an occupational therapist, or at least an itinerant who can service your school on request? It sounds very much like this child has sensory needs that need to be addressed. It may be that he needs some deep pressure, or perhaps some Brain Gym exercises. I'm in special ed, and therefore had resources such as access to an OT for consult. But even though legally she could only provide direct service to kids identified through the IEP process as requiring services, most of the time her direct services were not needed--those tended to be for small motor activities such as handwriting. For gross motor skills, we could consult with her, and she could give us--and the gen ed teachers--things to try. We even had a few gen ed classroom teachers who did Brain Gym-type activities as a full class! Try googling these. I used to describe them to my students as "exercises we do with our bodies to get our brains ready to learn."

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This has happened to me a number of times.  They're bored, simple as that.  They need enrichment - basically an independent study within the class.  Give them some additional freedom (since they easily master the basic course content) and let them research on their own, pursue topics or research projects of their own choosing to give them some independent license over their learning, and allow them to achieve the homework in different mediums - art, presentations, blogging, etc. While this sounds like a lot of work for you, my typical experience has been that once you get them started on this, they begin to find their own topics and ideas, and need less and less direction.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
Gifted children often get bored and frustrated when they are not challenged. Although it is a cliche, they also often lack social skills and this can lead to immaturity in how they deal with the frustration. Talk to the child. Asses him on what you plan to teach. Provide him with lessons individualized to what he needs to know, and enrichment for what he does know. It's extra work, but it will be worth it not to have to deal with this behavior.
maadhav19 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are some good suggestions here. He might also benefit from having special or custom-made assignments, along the lines suggested above. Say your class is doing constellations... perhaps take him aside and suggest he might get more out of reading something like a volume of Carl Sagan or Stephen Hawking. If he's bright and acting out, keeping him occupied with something that will really challenge him might be the route to go.  

besure77 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It seems that this child may be gifted. I would agree that this student needs to be challenged. Perhaps it would be best to discuss this with his or her parents and figure out a game plan regarding how to get them motivated. Maybe all this student wants is a challenge so I would definitely come up with some enrichment activities.

lrwilliams eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would agree that you need to differintiate your instruction in order to provide him with more challenging learning opportunities. You might also give him other ways to handle his restlessnees, we have used things such as stress balls for students to occupy themselves with during class time.

epollock | Student

You should ask him directly how he gets As while he is assumed to be the way that you described. Ask him how he feels about everything and how he feels about himself. By asking him, you just might solve your own problem.