Top Three Reasons Why Children Fail


What are kids scared of in school? They are afraid to let down the anxious adults around them namely their teachers and parents. This nerve-wrecking fear hovers over their head like a dark cloud, chasing them to failure. What else is scaring the living daylights out of them? It’s the humiliation these children feel when they cannot learn well enough and are targeted by their fellow classmates, who mock them and turn them into a laughing stock. It’s the hurtful comparisons their own parents make to their other siblings or other friends cruising ahead in school.

The greatest gift a parent or teacher can give to a child is their confidence and faith in his ability to reach his potential. 

Fear is the greatest hurdle in the way of learning. A genius cannot live under the constant scare of defeat and the pressure of not disappointing others. For this very reason, inventors like Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein failed so miserably in formal schooling. Yet the minute they were pulled out of the pressure and allowed to create something of value, they rose from mediocrity to excellence.

Kids are also afraid to make mistakes because the grown-ups in their lives generally have little or zero tolerance for it. Whether it is a simple case of spilling milk on the table, a wrong answer to a math problem, or a misspelt word, children are taken to task for any error they make. It makes me wonder about the number of times Anas (rtam) must have blundered while serving our Prophet Muhammad (sa) as a child, and yet, in his own words as evidence, Anas (rtam) states: “Not once in nine years of my service was I ever rebuked by the Messenger (sa).” Muhammad (sa) understood and respected the tender nature of children, and he allowed them room to learn and make mistakes fearlessly.


John Holt states: “Except for a handful, who may or may not be good students, they fail to develop more than a tiny part of the tremendous capacity for learning, understanding and creating with which they were born and of which they made full use during the first two or three years of their lives. Why do they fail?”

A child does not need to be a jack of all trades. He will fare better if he becomes the master of one. 

They fail because the race to finish off school curriculum is on every teacher and parent’s mind in general. The stuff kids are expected to do in classrooms is dull and boring. It does not challenge their intelligence. So they desperately try to sail along, sometimes swimming and other times drowning.


What confuses children? It’s the contradiction between what they learn in their classroom and what the real world presents to them. It makes little or no sense at all. To dodge this, kids adapt many strategies to survive school too. At times, they will mumble an answer. At other times, they will stay silent. Some will give the most outrageously incorrect answer mainly so that they are left alone. Others will try to read the teacher’s face for clues and may get lucky.

The greatest gift a parent or teacher can give to a child is their confidence and faith in his ability to reach his potential. Allah’s (swt) creation is never faulty. Every child comes with his set of skills. Unfortunately, our schools and educational system has very little room to recognize and let that talent grow. A child does not need to be a jack of all trades. He will fare better if he becomes the master of one. This means the report card may show low grades in some places and a clear winner in the area of the kid’s interest and passion. Let that be!

Adapted from “How Children Fail” by John Holt

Debate Activities in the Classroom

debateEach and every student possesses his or her own opinion. Classroom debates enable students to voice their opinions. A debate provides you with an opportunity to conduct yourself in a professional manner. According to the International Debate Education Association, “Debate is, above all, a way for those who hold opposing views to discuss controversial issues without descending to insult, emotional appeals or personal bias. A key trademark of debate is that it rarely ends in agreement, but rather allows for a robust analysis of the question at hand.”


Successful Classroom Debate Activities
In order to make debate activities successful, the teacher must ensure that each and every student is well-acquainted with the topic beforehand. Give them enough time to prepare and get motivated for the big day! You can play some games in the classroom leading up to the debate, and allow the competing teams to play against each other building a productive rivalry through words. Some of the classroom debate games are as follows:

1. A Four Corners Game

This debate game uses four corners of the classroom to get students moving.

Steps to follow
• Write the following opinions on four separate signs:
Strongly Agree, Somewhat Agree, Somewhat Disagree and Strongly Disagree
• Place each sign in each corner of the classroom.
• Various topics for students should be posed in the classroom. Decide on a topic based on the students’ age group and level of interest. For instance, in the elementary school, invite students to debate on statements such as, “It is important to eat from all the four food groups daily.” High school students might prefer a debate on “Should schools adopt a dress code?”
• Tell students to walk to the corner that best explains about how they feel about the topic. Give the groups a few minutes to talk about the topic and write down the reasons for their decision.
• Invite students to share their answers with the class. This debate game can be repeated with any other topic as well.

2. Card Game

This game will help students think carefully before they make an argument or rebuttal.

Steps to follow:
• Pull together a large number of index cards and write “Comment” on half and “Question” on the other half.
• Give out one of each card to the entire class.
• On the board, put up a debate topic or a resolution. Students must raise their hand and cash in the appropriate card to make a comment or question.
• Students will learn to keep their cards for when they have a very important point to make so you can reward players with extra cards for making excellent points or asking important questions.

3. Quick Debates/ Hat Debates

A hat debate requires the teacher to break the class into two teams: “For” and “Against”. The “For” team should sit in an outward-facing circle. The “Against” team should sit in a larger inward-facing circle with each member facing a member of the opposite team. A variety of debate topics are to be written on small slips of paper and placed in a hat. Often, such debates take place with just one speaker “for” and one speaker “against” the topic. It’s just a one-minute argument. One circle should rotate and then the teacher draws a new topic from the hat. Participants in this kind of debate have a minimal (or even no) time to prepare, so it’s a great practice for spontaneous thinking and arguments.

4. Inner Circle/Outer Circle Debate Strategy

This debate strategy centres on listening to the views of others and responding to them. It is a very good pre-writing debate strategy.

Steps to follow
• Arrange the students into four groups of equal size.
• Assemble the students of Group 1 in a circle and sit on chairs facing outward, away from the circle. Arrange students in Group 2 into a circle of chairs around Group 1, facing the students in Group 1. Groups 3 and 4 gather around the perimeter of the circle, facing the circle.
• Choose an issue that the students will be motivated to discuss/debate.
• Now, give students in the inner circle 10-15 minutes to discuss the topic. For this duration, all other students focus their attention on the students in the inner circle. Other students are not allowed to speak.
• Students in the outer circle take notes about points those students bring up; notes are used in a follow-up classroom discussion and/or for writing an editorial opinion expressing a point of view on the issue at hand.

5. Role Play Debate

In a role play debate, students scrutinize different points of view or perspectives related to an issue. For example, a debate about the question “Should students be required to wear uniforms at school?” might yield a range of opinions. Those might include views expressed by a student (or perhaps two students – one representing each side of the issue), a parent, a school principal, a police officer, a teacher, the owner of a clothing store, and others.

Steps to follow
• Whatever the issue is for debate in your classroom, decide in advance or ask students to help you identify the stakeholders in the debate.
• Then gather the index cards – one card for each student.
• Note down the roles of the stakeholders on the index cards, one stakeholder per card. Be sure you have at least three index cards for each stakeholder role.
• When it is time to debate, each stakeholder presents his or her point of view.
• After the presentations, the entire class can join in by asking questions of the individual stakeholders. When it ends, students decide which side of the debate — the Affirmative or Negative — presented the strongest case.

6. National and International Topics

National and international topics persuade children to think globally about the struggles, irrespective of the state or country boundaries.
In this context, some topics to be considered are:
• Is the government performing well?
• Should guaranteed health care be provided to all?
• What should be the response to global warming?
• What should be the function of the United Nations?

7. School and Local Issues

Children are most likely to be well- aware about local issues and issues affecting their school. For an exciting debate project, discuss an issue that kids are already experiencing or offer them an alternative as to how things are going currently. Children can debate on the following topics:
• Whether their class should have a field trip during the school year and where should they go.
• Whether they should be permitted to leave school premises during lunch.
• Whether the school cafeteria should only serve healthy food
• Whether kids should be able to attend school online.
• For younger grades, children can debate on whether there should be homework each night or whether the school day should be longer or shorter.

8. Creative Debate

Creative debate is a role-playing exercise. Students assume a specific point of view on a topic and debate a controversial topic from this perspective. Creative debates promote both critical thinking and tolerance of opposing views.

Steps to follow
• Divide the class into three groups. Select two groups to participate in the debate. The third group acts as an observer.
• Rearrange the classroom so that the opposing groups face one another and the observers are seated at one side.
• Present a reading selection that states one of the positions on the debate topic. Assign one group to argue for the selection; the other group argues against.
• Each student chooses a character from the past or present that signifies their position in the debate. (To speed up the process teachers may also suggest a list of characters.)
• Make each student introduce himself as a character to the class and then argue the topic from the perspective of this character. Encourage your students to ‘act out’ the character’s personality (speech patterns, mannerisms, etc.).
• Allocate ten minutes for each group to present their positons. Allow extra time for rebuttals.
• Next, ask the student teams to change their positions and argue the opposing viewpoint. (Perhaps the group of observers might change places with one of the other groups.)
• Repeat the debate and rebuttal process.
• At the end of the debate, ask students to reflect on their experiences.

Debates foster a great classroom environment by encouraging teamwork and friendly competition. Students tend to think analytically and express themselves clearly.

Hence, debates as an activity, help reach multiple classroom objectives: they not only practice speaking and listening skills, but also motivate students, develop their argumentation strategies, and encourage learner autonomy. Debates foster a great classroom environment by encouraging teamwork and friendly competition. Students tend to think analytically and express themselves clearly. Elementary, junior high (sometimes called middle school) and high schools use debates in the classroom, and the process becomes more sophisticated as the children get older. The maturity level of the students manipulates the debate style and expectations of the teacher. At the end of the day, every debate yields fruitful results!

Discipline – Noise Control

Vol 2 -Issue 4 Discipline-Noise controlDiscipline is a common challenge for teachers both new and old. Structure and fairness combined with clear goals and lesson planning in a caring, non-threatening environment are the keys to effective and successful teaching. Teaching is not an easy profession, even if you are the most experienced teacher. Through each situation there is a lesson to be learned. Here are some suggestions and ideas for disciplining students and controlling the noise level in classrooms.

Quiet Lights

When the class gets too noisy, switch off all the classroom lights and fans. When the children realize that the room has suddenly turned dark, you have their attention. They will see you at the switch with your finger on your lips gesturing them to be quiet and understand that they need to stop making noise and focus on the task at hand. Don’t do it too often or it won’t be as effective.

Cooperative Coloured Circles

When working with cooperative groups, you can keep the noise level under control by using colored circles. If a group is on a task and use quiet voices, give them a green circle. If they need to be reminded about the noise level, give them a yellow circle. If a group is way off from the task, give them a red circle and step in to give them assistance. This is a great way to model appropriate behavior, when you are just beginning to establish group rules. It also saves time, because it does not interrupt the entire class, when one group is off track.

Appropriate ‘Talking Times’

Students love to have time to talk. In order to keep them from doing it during instruction, you can apply the ‘My Time’ strategy. During ‘My Time,’ students must pay attention. They neither can talk nor disturb others, who are paying attention. At the end of class, ‘Their Time’ is the last five minutes, when they can talk amongst themselves.

Awesome Noise Control

Write the word ‘awesome’ on the board. When there is noise in the class, erase a letter starting backwards. If the class makes it to break time with the word intact, they sit where they like. If not, they are assigned seats. If they lose the entire word by the end of the day, they are deprived of their lunch break. If the entire word was intact at the end of the day, they are rewarded with 15 extra rewards for the next day. With each next day you will notice an improvement.

Waiting Cards

You can use numbered cards to organize students, who need her individual attention. Laminate the cards made for your classroom and place them in order in a basket. When you are busy talking to someone, a student can come up, take a card, and go back to the seats instead of waiting in line. When you are finished with one student, you can call on the next number and conference with that student.

Safekeeping Box

Sometimes children bring things from home to play with, which, of course, distracts them. You can resolve this problem by creating a safekeeping box. Take a medium-sized box with a lid, decorate it, and put a label on the box that says ‘Items in safekeeping, to be returned later.’ When you see children playing with something that is distracting them, ask them to put it in the safekeeping box and let them know that they can retrieve their item at the end of the day. This validates their personal treasures and assures their return. Additionally, it cuts down on distractions in the classroom, as the students quickly learn to avoid having things put into the box.

Quote the Student

When trying to convince a student to change his or her behavior, you will benefit from framing a persuasive message that quotes the student. You can say: “Danish, you said something the other day that I can’t get out of my mind,” or “Something you said made me start thinking.” You’ll find that many students, who appear to be non-listeners, will be intrigued, when you use this personalized technique. As a result, they will not be able to resist listening and responding to what you have to say.

General Discipline Tips

(1)   Over-correction

There are two types of over-correction procedures that you may be familiar with. During restitution training, a student is required to improve. For example, if Erum writes on the wall, she is required to clean the whole wall, instead of just the space she wrote on. The other type of positive practice involves the student practicing the correct response repeatedly. If Sana turns in an assignment that is too sloppy to read, she must not only redo that task but do better.

(2)   Questioning Behavior

When a student has a discipline problem, just ask him / her to answer the four questions on the discipline questionnaire:

  1. What did I do wrong?
  2. Why wasn’t my action acceptable?
  3. What should I have been doing instead?
  4. What will I do in the future?

Then, mail the form home to the child’s parents. This system forces students to own up to their actions.

(3)   Behavior Notebook

Keep track of irresponsible student conduct by assembling a 3-ring notebook and dedicating a page per student at the beginning of the school year. On the first day of school, show the students their blank pages and challenge them to keep them blank the whole year. Here’s how it works. When a student breaks one of the rules set for the class – (of course, make these known at the onset of the school year), – that student must go to the behavior notebook and write a brief explanation. If you agree with the assessment, sign and date it. Send it home with the report card at the end of the marking period. If a student has a blank page all year, send home the original blank page with a heartwarming note of praise for good behavior all year long.