Engaging the reluctant learner in primary interventions

When you call a child’s name for intervention and you see their shoulders slump and reluctance in their eyes, you know something needs to change.

Children can sometimes interpret interventions as failing at a task or not being good enough. It can damage their self-esteem and push them down the reluctant learner path. We explore how to engage children in primary school interventions, transforming them into eager beavers.

Why can some pupils be reluctant to engage with interventions in school?  

There are lots of factors that can make children not want to participate in interventions:

  • Feeling like they are missing out: if their intervention slot always clashes with their favourite foundation subject, they can become resentful towards the interventions.
  • Lack of motivation: you leave the classroom environment to sit alone and match the grapheme to the phoneme… thrilling! A lack of motivation to learn and nail a target can increase reluctance.
  • Feeling overwhelmed: they’ve slogged at the learning skill for an hour this morning, to then go and tackle it again in the afternoon? No thanks! Feelings of overwhelm due to concepts that are too difficult can impact a pupil’s self-esteem.
  • Dull topic content: it can be hard to make all content fun; dry topic content can discourage active intervention participation.

4 steps to engage pupils with interventions in primary school:

So, how can we turn children into intervention eager beavers? We want children who volunteer themselves, willing to work hard because they are excited. 

1. Use high-quality resources.

The first step is to use intervention resources that are interesting, easy to use and reduce cognitive overload. The resources of choice should be linked with previous learning, helping to build those connections between topics. Activities that are not appropriate for children's level of learning will disengage your learner no matter how interesting they are! Engaging content at an appropriate learning level is a necessary combination for a successful intervention.

"These children who were normally disengaged were asking to take the activities home” – Year 2 Teaching Assistant, St Mary and St Margaret’s C of E Primary on Shine Interventions.

Read more about pupil engagement in our Impact Study

2. Choose the right length of time.

How long is too long for interventions? It depends on the frequency of the sessions, the number of pupils in the groups and, of course, the concentration levels of the pupils. Having resources pre-prepared for you saves time setting up, planning, and organising resources for the session. 15-30 minutes is an ideal length of time for a key stage 2 intervention session.