One of my students this year has some major learning disabilities. There was discussion about moving him to a special education class but, for a variety of reasons (including the fact I had developed a solid relationship with him), we decided that keeping him in my class would be the best place for him.

He’s a good kid. One of his challenges is having difficulties focusing, and I’ve been struggling to figure out what I could need to help him do his work without necessarily having to check-in with him constantly. Nothing I had tried worked.

Last week he and I talked about the issue again. I told him that I wanted to try-out something new — every time I gave the class an assignment, I would give him full credit if he completed half of it — but only if he got right to work on it and I didn’t need to remind him to get to work. He seemed pretty excited about the idea, and readily agreed.

Much to my surprise, it worked beautifully. During the entire week, he was very focused. The one or two times he appeared distracted, I only had to say, “remember our agreement,” and he immediately got on task.

Each Friday I have students write a reflection responding to a question. Yesterday, the question was, “What was one thing you did very well this week and why do you think you did it so well?”

This student’s response was:

“I made my agreement with Mr. Ferlazzo and kept it. It was something I knew I could do.”

Assuming this continues to go well, in a few weeks I’ll consider talking with him about gradually moving up the expectations.

Making individual “deals” with students, I’ve found, is a key to a successful classroom (see “I’ll Work If You Give Me Candy”).

Have you had similar experiences?