How To Get Difficult Students To Listen To You


Smart Classroom Management: How To Get Difficult Students To Listen To You

You offer encouragement.

You give reminders. You supply wisdom and inspiration you hope will make an impact.

But your words fall on deaf ears.

Nothing you say to your most challenging students seems to make a difference.

They continue to misbehave, ignore your advice, and disappoint you day after day.

What you need is a way to get through to them, a secret something that resonates and shakes them to the core.

What you need is influence.

Influence is that missing ingredient that will make your words matter and affect lasting change in behavior.

So how do you get it, especially with students who don’t appear to listen to anyone?

You get it by adhering to three guiding principles:

1. Don’t create friction.

Every time you lecture, scold, threaten, argue with, or glare at difficult students you sabotage your influence with them. You create a you-against-them relationship that severs the line of communication.

Nothing you say, then, will have an effect beyond the few seconds they dutifully (or not) nod their head as you’re speaking.

2. Be consistent.

In an effort to build rapport and influence, many (many) teachers will look the other way in the face of misbehavior. They’ll let some things go. They’ll offer a reminder instead of a consequence.

But this communicates loud and clear that you can’t be trusted. It tells them that when you say something, it may or may not be true. To build trust, and ultimately influence, you must be consistent day after day after day.

You must follow your classroom management plan precisely as it’s written.

3. Be kind without strings.

Extending simple kindness to your most difficult students, without manipulation, flattery, or expectation of receiving anything in return, has an almost magical way of unlocking powerful and influential rapport.

Random smiles, hellos, chitchats, and fist bumps out of nowhere cause even the most jaded students to look at you differently than any adult they’ve ever met.

They appreciate this no-strings-attached interaction so much that despite themselves they’ll like and respect you. They’ll want to please you and listen to you.

Your Words Will Matter

The cumulative effect is that those little gems of advice or encouragement you just know they need to hear . . .

Will matter to them.

They’ll have meaning and relevance. They’ll cause them to stop and think and really listen.

They’ll stay with them and echo in their mind.

Often for a lifetime.


Meet the Parent Sessions or Parent Teacher Conferences?


A Summary of the Fifth Discipline by Monica Suan

The end of term is near and its time of the year again when we get to meet and chat with our students’ parents and guardians. As part of my reading project, I have summarized my reading and also share my thoughts on ‘Meet Parent Sessions’. Hope this article will inspire some thoughts about how you can approach MPS.

*************************************************** MPS (Source   Rather than say ‘Meet the Parent’ Sessions, some writers prefer the term ‘Parent-Teacher Conferences to describe such sessions. In this entry, I will summarize a chapter in Peter Senge’s Fifth Discipline that discusses the art of communication with parents in such Parent Teacher Conferences.

Why ‘Conference’? The word ‘Conference’ is a noun, yet increasingly it has been used as a verb. Educators speak about conferencing with students and parents rather than ‘conferring’ with them. Both words stem from the latin ‘Conferr’ meaning ‘to bring together’, ‘to consult together’. When used as a noun or verb, conferencing seems to convey a ‘thing’; thus, to ‘Conference’ with someone means to tell or transmit knowledge, in a top down fashion. When you meet the parents of the students in your class did you ‘Conference’ or ‘Conferr’?

The Weakest Link In school, communication occurs between the teacher and the student. At home, communication occurs between the student and parent. If the classroom is a system involving the teacher, student and parent, then obviously the link between teacher and parent is the weakest link in this system. Hence, the parent teacher conference is created to improve this link.

Do you Conferr or Conference? Is there effective ‘Conferr-ing’ during your Parent-Teacher Conferences? Just how effective are these 10 – 15 minutes conversations with the parents of students each year (sometimes more than once a year) in creating such links?

Does this happen in your parent teacher conferences? Teacher A holds the result slips of her students and painstakingly wrote a folder of notes containing her students’ weaknesses.  For the next ten to fifteen minutes from the moment the parent approached the table and sat down, the following possible scenarios enfold…….

  • The parents listen as the teacher runs down their child’s results (which frankly, I believe the parents can read on their own) or run down her notes of all the naughty things their child has committed since January….
  • Sometimes the teacher listens while the parents vent frustrations over their child’s obsession with his computer or coming home late from school or their displeasure with the school programmes…..

At the end of the 15 minutes, what has been communicated? Was the time effectively used so that the child in discussion will be able to benefit it? Is there ways to make these conversations more relevant and beneficial and provide a learning experience for both the teacher and the parents and even the student?

Reframing by inquiring and advocating Senge et al (2000) suggest teachers reframe a parent teacher conference by asking questions that is able to build a common understanding of current reality of the student.

How about asking the following questions to generate deeper conversations with parents during the coming Parent-Teacher Conference?

  1. What strength do you see in your child?
  2. What does your child say about school?
  3. What kinds of activities, at school or elsewhere, seem to frustrate your child most?
  4. What kinds of activities excite your child?
  5. What does he do at home most of the time at home?
  6. Tell me about your child’s peers and social relations?
  7. Who does he or she socialize with outside of school?
  8. What kind of responsibilities does your child have at home?
  9. What goals do you have for your child?
  10. What is your child’s favourite subject or activity?
  11. What would you like to know about your child?

Conversational Dos and Don’ts in Parent-Teacher Conference Dos

  • Skillful discussion

Balancing advocacy and inquiry, genuinely curious, makes reasoning explicit, ask others about assumptions without being critical or accusing.

  • Dialogue

Suspending all assumptions, creating a container in which collective thinking can emerge.

  • Interviewing

Exploring other’s point of view and the reasons behind them

  • Clarifying

What is the question we are trying to answer?


  • Dictating

“Here’s what I say, and never mind why”

  • Politicking

Give the impression of balancing advocacy and inquiry while being close-minded.

  • Withdrawing

Mentally checking out the room and not paying attention

  • Interrogating

Why can’t you see that your point of view is wrong?

(Source – Senge, P et al (2000), Schools that Learn – A Fifth Discipline Fieldbook for Educators, Parents and Everyone Who Cares About Education, Replika, London)  

My Experience (How I ask questions in MPS) At a MPS, as the parents approach my table, I will always make a point to greet the parents with a smile and arrange that they face me while the student sits at the side between both of us.  The triangular arrangement is to emphasize the classroom system of parent student teacher working together and have a three-way conversation.

Firstly, I will make the parent feel welcome by thanking them for taking time off their busy schedule to attend the session. I state the objective of the session which is to communicate with the parents and see how we can work together to support the student in his learning. Then, I will ask the parents if they have queries about their child. Usually, the conversation will flow based on their concerns or questions. Here’s where I will ask questions about the student and learn more about how the students learn at home.  (eg. Questions from the list above) After that, I will focus on the student’s performance in the examinations and start by focusing on what has improved or commendable followed by areas of concerns.

Together with the parents, we will explore ways to help the student. The session will usually end with a summary of new strategies which we will try out to bring about better learning for the student.

Thank you for reading. I hope this article is useful to you. Do give me some feedback as to how to improve conversations in MPS.

Start bRight 2015 – by SDMC


On the 30th December 2014, we participated in our first school level PD session in preparation for the new academic year. Called the HANDS Workshop, here are some key takeways from the session.

Key Messages:

  1. “Handprints We Left Behind” Everyone of us have transformed the students under our charge by imparting various values that we hold dear to ourselves. In our own ways, we have all impacted and influenced the young lives that have passed through our hands.
  1. “Hand in Hand We Stand”

Our students join Bowen and begin a 4-year journey. Each year is not an individual journey but a continuous 4-year journey for our students. We work as a team to grow and develop the students who pass through our hands in Bowen.


  1. “My Left Hand Column”

Mental models are conceptual frameworks consisting of generalizations and assumptions from which we understand the world and take action in it. We many not even know that these mental models exist or are affecting us.

Peter M.Senge, author of “The Fifth Discipline”

  • Although mental models provide internal stability in a world of continuous change, they also blind us to facts and ideas that challenge or defy our deeply held beliefs.
  • We can overcome erroneous mental models by MANAGING them appropriately. That means you need to discover your mental models, test each model’s validity, and improve them based upon information learned from your analysis and external sources.

Our Left Hand Columns (LHC)

  • refers to internal conversations and thoughts that get in the way of our performance and learning.
  • LHC can be used as a resource to raise our self awareness and help us switch from a judgmental stance to a learner stance.
Judger (Defensive) Learner
Reactive and automatic Thoughtful
Inflexible and rigid Flexible and adaptive
Self Righteous & Protective Inquisitive & Curious
Afraid of difference Values difference
Win – lose relationships Win – win relationships
Debates & Criticizes Dialogues & Critiques
Who’s to blame? What am I responsible for?

Mental Model

Being aware of our Left Hand Columns will help us identify if we are in a Judger or Learner mode, and help us make a conscious choice to shift to new mental models. Starting the new year with correct mental models and learner questions will help us

  1. “A Pat on the Back”

We encouraged and thanked the colleagues who have made our work and life in Bowen more pleasant.

Using Humour in the Classroom


Is there enough laughter in your classroom? Are your students suffering in a dull and tense environment or are they enjoying themselves learning in a fun and engaging classroom?

Take the “Laughing Classroom Quiz”. Find out if there is enough warmth and laughter in your classroom.


The first time I made a whole class of students collapse in a fit of abandoned laughter, I felt such a sense of pleasure and achievement that I wanted to do it more often in my classroom. Far from being a comedian or an entertainer, I realised I could actually make my students laugh and have fun while learning.

Once, I had a difficult time helping my students in my English class digest a fairly complex reading passage about the author’s daunting climb up a mountain. The students were getting frustrated and what I said was not making any sense to them. So using my limited artistic talent, I proceeded to draw on the whiteboard two huge mountains to show them how the valley could be dangerous. Very soon, I began to hear giggles and then laughter from the students. I stepped back and realised that I had a suggestive illustration of a part of a woman’s anatomy on the board! Laughing at myself, I saw that the tense class atmosphere had suddenly become light-hearted.

Another time, a student realised he had forgotten to paragraph his writing assignment and exclaimed with a sudden “Shit!” I immediately looked down at the floor and responded with “Where? Where?” The whole class burst into laughter. These were occasions when humour helped me make learning enjoyable and kept my students engaged in the classroom.


Why use humour?

I suppose many of us have intentionally or unintentionally created laughter in the classroom and immediately felt good about it. So why use humour in the classroom? Mary Jane Belfie, a well known psychologist, tells us that “Something special happens when people laugh together over something genuinely funny, and not hurtful to anyone. It’s like magic rain that showers down feelings of comfort, safety and belonging to a group.

Here are some reasons, according to Michael Lewin why we should have more laughter in the classroom.

  •  It’s a common language.   Although it can take time for some students to come around, all students like to laugh. Laughter is the one thing guaranteed to build camaraderie and knock down social and emotional walls, binding students from different backgrounds together into one happy classroom.
  • Your students will love you for it.   When you make an effort to add humour to your lessons, routines, and activities, you instantly become more likeable to your students – which causes them to want to be around you, to please you, and to get to know you better. This, in turn, gives you powerful leverage to influence their behavior.
  • It’s easy.   It takes little or no planning to bring more laughter to your classroom. All you need is a willingness to try. Your students will appreciate any effort to be funny. They’re primed to laugh. So be your silly self, tell a joke or two, and show your best–or worst–dance moves.


  • It builds togetherness.   I’m dubious of community circles—at least in the way they’re commonly used. Hashing out grievances can lead to resentment and more things to complain about. Sharing a laugh and having a good time together, however, soothes old wounds and alleviates hurt feelings better than anything else.
  • It eases tension.   Many classrooms buzz with tension. You can feel it as soon as you walk through the door. And before long, you’ll see it too: excitable, irritable, and misbehaving students. Laughter, however, can relax an uptight classroom—releasing tension, calming vibrating knees, and bringing joy to the room.
  • It motivates students to behave.   Humour can help you create a classroom your students love being part of. This, along with strict accountability, provides a strong motivator for students to behave. No student wants to wallow in time-out while their classmates are sharing a laugh with the teacher.
  •  It encourages hard work.   When students are happy to be in your class, you can ask so much more of them. They appreciate a classroom they enjoy coming to every day, and they’ll want to repay you for it. It’s human nature. We reciprocate those we feel indebted to.
  •  It reaches the hard to reach.   Humour has the power to help you make personal connections with students, particularly with those who are hardest to reach. When I look back on the most challenging students I’ve had over the years, I can often point to the use of humour as a major factor in helping me turn them around and guide them in the right direction.

There is a common belief that if you use humour in your classroom, you’ll lose control of your students. But here’s the thing. If you already have poor classroom management, then yes, it’s true. Trying to be funny will backfire on you. Behavior will likely get worse. But if you have solid classroom management skills, then bringing more laughter into your classroom will make you even more effective.


Theories of Humour

If you need some theoretical backing for the use of humour, check out the book “License to Laugh” by Richard A. Shade who discusses the role of humour in the educational setting.


Humour Strategies to Use

Even if you think you are a “humourless” person or “humour challenged,” there are things you can do to lighten the load and dissipate the clouds in your classroom. Just remember, above all, that sarcasm has no place in the school. Only “no hurt” humour is acceptable. According to Maurice Elias, Professor Rutgers at the University Psychology Department, these are some things you could do:

  •  Laugh at yourself — when you do something silly or wrong, mention it and laugh at it
  • Add humorous items to tests, homework or class assignments – an option when you give multiple choice exams requiring students to identify pairs of historical leaders is “Calamari and Anchovy”. It always gets smiles, and helps to break exam tension
  • Keep a quotable quotes bulletin board or corner in your room — look for humour quotes and post them and encourage your students to do the same
  • Keep a cartoon file, and have an area where you can display one or two a day on a rotating basis, with students making the choice
  • Have Joke Friday — ask students to bring in jokes to share, either to start the day on Friday, to make a transition between lunch and the following class, or at the end of the day (be sure to screen the jokes in advance, of course)


  • Ask students to try to build humour into occasional writing assignments — that will start a conversation about what is funny, how they know something is funny, why different people find some things funny but some things are funny to almost everyone
  • Have a funny hat day, or mismatched socks day, or some other funny dress-up time
  • Build creative and humorous thinking by showing cartoons and picture without captions and asking students to create them — individually, in pair-shares, or small groups
  • Ask students to bring in books they think are funny. Ask them to talk about why, and to use examples from the book

Looking for more ideas to inject some humour in your classroom? Go to this link: “Comedy in the Classroom: 50 Ways to bring Laughter into any Lesson”


Areas of humour to avoid

 A word of caution about using humour in the classroom. Avoid these areas of humour which could heighten rather than reduce tension or even get you into trouble with the authorities!

  • Sexual
  • Ethnic/Racial
  • Religious
  • Hostile/Sick
  • Demeaning to Men/Women

So let’s add some more enjoyment to school. We don’t need guffaws — a smile and a little levity can go a long way. It’s time for us educators to take humour more seriously.

Relaxation technique for your tired eyes


Are your eyes always feeling tired? Have you been staring at your students’ scripts or the computer screen for too long?


The following is a simple eye massage which you can do to giveyour eyes some relief. It was first shared by Ms Soh Geok Kee for our graduating students during their CCE lessons.

We hope it comes in useful for you too!

1. Massage the above position in circular motion with your knuckle or middle fingers.


2. Use the knuckles of your index fingers to massage, first from inner to outer on top of your eyebrows an then below the eyes, lightly pressing at your temples.


3. Pinch from middle of the brow to tip of the nose.face3

4. Use the knuckle of your index fingers to massage the bottom tip of your cheek bones in circular motion.


How Do You Know That THEY Know?




           You have taught, but have they learnt? How do you know if they have learnt?

Key Questions:

  1. How do we know that our students have learnt?
  2. What strategies can we employ to determine their level of understanding, tease out misconceptions and give them “forward-feeding feedback” so that they can improve?




A toolkit of 20 simple-to-use AfL Strategies



Try these out in class and tell us how it went!  


How to Prezi my Presentation?


by Ms Monica Suan


1. Choose a template

When you create a prezi, you can choose from a number of reusable templates or a blank canvas. When you decide to use a template, you can edit everything you see on the canvas just as if you were creating your own prezi,.


2. Navigate the canvas

Zooming around:  You can zoom in and out by using your mouse’s scroll wheel or by clicking the + and – symbols on the right hand side of your screen.


Panning: To move your prezi canvas left, right, up, or down, hold down the left button of your mouse and then move in the direction you want to go.
To take a step back and get an overview of everything you’ve added so far (both in Edit and Present mode), you can use the Home button  on the right hand side of your screen (you can find it just above the zoom + and – buttons).

Clicking the Home button before you start making a prezi will also ensure that you’re starting from the right place.


3. Add text and images

Click anywhere and start typing to add text.


Select ‘Insert‘ from the top-menu to start adding images from the web or your computer. 


4. Get to know the Transformation Tool

In Prezi, the Transformation Tool allows you to move, size, and rotate your content any way you like. If you add a frame to your prezi, you can click on it once to bring up the Transformation Tool and move, scale, or rotate everything inside.


Frame your content

Frames are a great way to manage your content. Frames work like slides and can be used to group your ideas. Use frames to create a placeholder in your prezi and then add content to them. Frames come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and you can change the color of them as well as their size and position. The other great thing about frames is that once you place one on your prezi canvas, you can move, size, and rotate it, and all the content within your frame will move, size, and rotate too.

Create frames:


5. Insert diagrams

Prezi has created layout drawings, diagrams, and charts that can help you better communicate your ideas to your audience.


6. Path: navigate and rearrange with the Path sidebar

When presenting your ideas, it can sometimes help to have a clear narrative that takes your audience through your prezi. With the Left Sidebar, you can create a journey from one idea to the next. Edit your path and its points in Edit mode and take your audience along that path in Present mode.


To set your path, click the ‘Edit Path’ on the left-hand side of screen. Then click on the objects in your prezi canvas in the order you wish them to appear.

You can also use the sidebar to rearrange and delete path points or to zoom to a specific path point.