Pupils Do Not Participate

Vignette #23


I am a trainee teacher. Since a few weeks I teach a class of 27 pupils (age 12 to 13 years) at a grammar school in the subject of history. The class does not show much motivation to study the topics I am teaching. The last time only three students collaborated during the lesson. The rest of the class was mainly busy talking to each other. There was a high noise level during the lesson. One student was resting with his head face-down on his arms on the table most of the time. Others played with the contents of their pencil cases. I had to ask many students individually to pull out their workbooks and to write down the notes on the blackboard.

I tried different things to change the situation. I asked them to be quiet in a calm manner, I tried to make my lesson interesting by showing a video clip on the history topic, I shouted at them to be quiet, I threatened them with detentions and I also reorganised the way they sit in the classroom. Nothing really helped. Due to the disturbances there are many interruptions and my lessons lack the structure I planned very carefully. Also, I get more and more confused during the lesson. This makes the lesson even more unstructured. At the moment, I am quite stressed when I teach in this class and I do not know where to start changing something. Do I have to change the way I communicate with the pupils? Do I have to plan my lessons in a different way with different methods? Do the pupils disturb due to lack of knowledge or are they not motivated to learn? etc.


So, my dilemma is that I learned so much about pedagogy and classroom management theoretically, but I do not know how to do it practically, how to decide during the lesson which is the right way to go.


  • One possibility could be to talk to colleagues, how they deal with this particular class. (tool 9, 11)
  • Observe them while teaching this class. (tool 4)
  • I could ask the pupils themselves how they feel in the lesson and what they would need to be more willing to cooperate. (tool 3 and 3a)
  • I could videotape my lesson and reflect on the situation in more detail. (tool 6, 7)