Sunday, July 14, 2013

Guest Blog: 5 Tips for teaching Social Studies to At-Risk Students

I asked my wife, Carrie to be my guest blogger.  She has a degree in teaching Secondary Ed History.

I did my student teaching at an alternative high school in a small town in Utah.  My students were teenagers who were not thriving in a traditional school setting.  Each student I taught had experienced failure of some kind in learning and achieving success in school.  This added a different level of challenge to teaching these youth and required creativity and resourcefulness in presenting lesson plans. I felt strongly that my role as a teacher was to help them have confidence in their learning abilities.  The most important things I learned from my experience teaching these students are:

1. Confidence and Firmness.  Like all teenagers, at-risk youth can sense if their authority figure is easily manipulated.  

2. Preparation and organization. Preparation is crucial at all levels of teaching, but I found that at risk youth were better behaved and motivated when they felt you knew what you were talking about.

3. Flexibility/adaptability. Following the flow of discussion and being able to alter lesson plans when the occasion called for it helped the students stay engaged and interested.

4. Personalization. Personal stories were very effective when teaching about historical content.  It helped the students relate in a better way.

5. Compassion. At-risk youth can often have difficult home lives. I found myself acting as a mentor and friend to many of them who didn’t have stable role models.  They present unique challenges and compassion is an essential component in combating frustration with teaching them.  


  1. Jeremy (and your guest blogger - who you don't name in the post), many of the students who end up in full-time cyber charter schools share many of the same characteristics of these students that you have a lot of experience with. I was wondering if you were familiar with cyber charters and, if so, what you felt about their ability to address the five areas you have raised?

  2. Michael,

    I replied to this one via email and I think that has been my mistake in the past, I read the comments in my email and reply via email thinking that my reply will show up on my blog.


  3. Jeremy, thank you for sharing this post. I found it very instructive. I think the list also works for all students. I struggle with #1 being a woman teacher sometimes, but I agree that it is very important to have!

  4. Carrie, these are excellent strategies for reaching all students!Sometimes teachers forget that liking their students can go a long way in helping them. As you point out,compassion can truly be the game-changer when working with at-risk students. Thank you for sharing your experience with us.