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3 Strategies to Help Your Slow Workers

As a teacher, you want to make sure no child is left behind. Unfortunately, this is not always the case since children develop differently. Some might finish their assignments quickly, grasp new ideas immediately, and are always ready to move on. On the other hand, some students take an eternity to complete the same projects or fail to turn them in at all.

How do you strike a balance? Do you concentrate on the slow workers and neglect everyone else? There's no straightforward answer for teachers, but the following strategies can help you support slow workers:

1. Give them Permission to Take Their Time

As a teacher, don't let students feel pressured to move too quickly. Create an environment where they feel accepted and safe. You can do this by:

Considering New Possibilities

Before concluding that someone is just a "slow worker," first figure out why. Start by analyzing whether there is an underlying reason for their struggles. Conditions like anxiety, ADHD, and learning disabilities can contribute to slow movement. Once you understand the problem, you'll be treating the problem instead of the symptoms.

Acknowledging Their Struggles

Acknowledging student struggles out loud with them is a step closer to solving the problem. Tell them it’s okay to feel overwhelmed. The goal is to allow the students to embrace their feelings and work from there. If you're yelling or criticizing, especially in front of other students, it will only make the problem worse. 

2. Accommodate Slow Workers

In this context, accommodating a slow worker means working to their strengths rather than focusing on their weaknesses. You intentionally create an environment that supports their success. 

Break Down the Assignments

Look for strategies that can help slower students. If someone has difficulties completing a large, complex assignment, consider cutting it into bite-sized chunks. This way, students with limited focus can complete their work in the same time frame as other students.

For longer projects, help them break down steps and require check-ins with you. That way, you can get a better idea of what is tripping them up. 

Use a Visual Timer

Many kids struggle with time blindness, even if they have a regular classroom schedule. Using a visual timer to motivate slow workers is a helpful tool. Odds are, they don’t intentionally fail to turn in assignments on time. In some cases, the slow workers think they have a lot of time to finish when they really don't. Using a timer tells students how much time they have left. 

If the project is long, a trick similar to the Pomodoro Technique can be helpful. Here, you allow students to work on a project for about 20 minutes, give them a 5-minute break, and then continue. These brain breaks help to curb overwhelm and burnout. 

3. Advocate for Them

Advocating refers to a genuine willingness as the teacher to assist slow workers throughout the learning process. Sometimes, you might need to work as a team, including parents and administration. Common practices that show advocacy include the following:

Assign a Helper

As a teacher, you don’t have all the time in the world to get things done. If anything, you're constantly up against time and your own deadlines. Assigning helpers to struggling students gives you time to focus on other things while helping everyone get ahead. They may pay more attention to someone other than a teacher and pick up their speed.

While a class aid might be ideal, your school might not have the budget for one. Instead, you could also ask for parent volunteers or assign peer support. This can be a great way to involve more advanced students and keep them occupied and engaged as well. 

Offer At-Home Strategies

If you have an ongoing speed problem, it might be a good idea to work with parents on at-home strategies to help the child improve. And help from other professionals such as counselors, tutors, and therapists can help, too. Students deserve all the help they can get, which might come from outside the classroom walls. 

The Key Takeaway to Helping Slow Workers

Children develop differently, and there's nothing wrong with that. If you have kids that are constantly behind, don't let it stress you out. It's not your fault or theirs. By accepting, advocating, and accommodating them, you improve their chances of getting better and keeping up with the class. 

Written by Mary Joseph
Education World Contributor
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