“I’ll Come Back to You”

The constant challenge — what to do when a student tries to opt out. A consequence or reprimand can alienate the student, ignoring it sends the message that participation is optional, and there isn’t always time to check in with students who are trying to avoid participation.

My new favorite, simple move — if I call on someone and they’re clearly not with the class, I say “Great, I’ll come back to you in a minute.” Move on to someone else, and circle back once they’ve had a chance to catch up. It’s not always possible, but it’s a great positively framed way to send the message that class time is for learning, so you need to be with the rest of us.

This is my go-to move during number talks–I start by cold-calling students before taking hands, and I want to embrace the idea that every student has to participate without pressuring students to feel like they’ll get in trouble if they don’t have an answer when I call on them.

The catch is — if I say I’ll come back to a student and don’t, I’m creating a much bigger problem.

2 thoughts on ““I’ll Come Back to You”

  1. banderson02

    This is something I have to use quite often in the classroom, and mornings are worse than afternoons (go figure). You are correct in saying you HAVE to go back to the student when you say that, otherwise you are enabling the student’s actions. My strategy for this is that I always ask for multiple input, which throws students off. I normally start with the “safe” student, the one who you know will have an idea they will share- and maybe not always right. They get the class thinking and that is how I need discussions to start. Then I call on a student I want to be sure to engage. These normally will say IDK and I will have to say, “Take a few more moments to get your thoughts and I will check back with you.” Then I call for 2 more student’s input and cone back. If students do not have an answer yet, I will ask if they agreed with their peers. The student quickly falls into my trap and says yes or no. I then ask them to restate to me what the idea of their peers was and why they agree or disagree. Students see this as safe, taking about other student’s thoughts versus the question I posed. What they start to realize is that they are answering my question and they gain confidence to share their ideas.
    The biggest key- foster a feeling of “this is a think tank, we talk about any idea and see if it helps” versus a seeking of right answers and you will find that the phrase “I’ll get back to you” eventually fades from the classroom.

  2. @JustinAion

    This is a great one and I use it frequently!

    Occasionally, (read: much of the time) when I come back to the student, they stare me down and refuse to answer my questions.

    Then we break out the flamethrower!


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