Classroom Drama: Redirecting the Disengaged: The Student Defector

motivating students

Great classrooms possess a culture of respect, cooperation, and focused participation in the relevant subject at hand.  But a certain type of student can ruin such a culture.  I will call this type of student a defector because he or she engages from classroom participation via constant side conversations which disturb learning.  Also, a student defector may simply be a non-participant who refuses to speak up.

Respecting the learning of classmates should be a priority for every student. Therefore, student defector issues must be addressed, especially if constant side conversations are occurring while teaching is going on.

Dealing with Defectors

One strategy you can use to redirect the student’s attention back to the lesson at hand is to ask the student a question regarding the lesson. Usually if the student cannot answer the question accurately, he or she will become embarrassed enough to stop and focus on learning.

One option for stopping side conversations is to approach the student defector and stand behind him while you continue to give instructions. This approach works almost 90% of the time because the privacy of the student’s conversation is exposed.

Of course, the defector may not acknowledge your physical presence hovering over him or her.  If this occurs, the next thing to do is pull the student aside and warn him about his disruptive behavior. Further discipline must be taking if the situation doesn’t improve.

As effective teachers, our job is to get everyone involved in the lesson. Therefore, our plans must be interesting and our delivery must be filled with passion. The biggest mistake that many teachers make is to think that all students will be interested in a passionless lesson plan.

The reality is that excitement is contagious.  The more you display passion in delivering your lesson plans, the more you will be able to hold the attention of defectors.

Tips for Getting Students Involved

Tip 1: Ask lots of questions. Go around the room and give everyone an opportunity to speak.  Don’t allow students to pass on the answers. You need to know if they understand the knowledge they are being taught.

Tip 2: Pass out sticky notes and ask key questions. Have students write their answers down.  Walk around the room and see if everyone has participated.

Getting every student involved creates an environment in which effective and exciting learning can occur without the need extreme redirection.


(Series 2)