I teach six- and seven-year-olds at an international school in Spain. I have a six-year-old boy in my class who seems to need help coming out of his shell both socially and academically. He rarely speaks, shows no facial emotions, does not remember instructions and does nothing throughout the lesson. He is small and thin, although healthy. He swings on his seat, often dangerously. I try to involve him in whole-class discussions (particularly to show him that I can see when he is not paying attention). I ask easy questions but he does not respond. One to one, he would have no problem - it's only in groups that we struggle.
His previous teacher allowed him to wander the classroom because sitting still was too difficult. I have decided against this. This student faces consequences regularly for not making efforts in his work but he is never rude to me or the other children. They are not disrespectful to him. They know there is something "different". Any ideas?
The expert view
That's a very tough situation. It sounds as though this child has some form of undiagnosed special need. Is there any provision in your school to have him tested in some way? That way you may be able to access extra help, depending on the support climate.
That said, I would be interested to hear how he does with mainstream behaviour modification: in other words, sanctions and rewards. But first I would have a one-to-one talk with him, with his parent(s) present: what's his take on this? Why doesn't he speak when spoken to? Is he shy? Is he bullied by others? He may have a legitimate reason to be quiet - or he may not - but you should identify this.
I would keep him behind after school every day to complete work that you know he can complete. Get the family's support before you do, so that there are no hitches or snags. After a week of that, all but the toughest kids will buckle and start picking up the effort in classes. But also praise him for doing the right thing every time he does.