The "Know-It-All" in the Classroom – Meeting the Needs of Students

The “Know-It-All”  –  Meeting the Needs of Students

If you were a fly on my classroom wall you would see me (& all teachers, etc. …) dealing with a multitude of personalities and subject matters (school, family, group & individual matters) all day long — and seemingly all at once. It is a very active, organic, impulsive and exciting environment within which to operate.

A few years ago I found myself speaking with a friend of mine whose child was (in her words) a “know-it-all”. I know … it’s not a flattering term … and she wished she could find a kinder way of describing this one aspect of her personality … but it is what it is and she was who she was.

Accordingly, she was (or is) – 99% of the time – a charming, well-mannered student. She was is a motivated learner who loved to participate in class. She assumed responsibility for following all directions & initiating tasks. Her organizational skills were excellent. She made a conscious effort to remain engaged in the learning process, took pride in her accomplishments and eagerly reviewed concepts to ensure understanding. 

However … she could be impulsive and quick to presume … to make assumptions. She often assumed that she was right; that she knew better than others – and corrected teachers & peers- rightly or wrongly – several times a day. … For lack of a better term she came across as a “know-it-all” – an unflattering quality for such a lovely child.

So what to do? Clearly, being a “know-it-all” did not present her in a good light … and often annoyed the other children (& grown-ups) around her. The goal was clear: To discover the “roots” of the behavior and then to address the situation as best as possible. So to that end I suggested that they keep a diary of sorts and developed a plan. One must act as, like a detective, gathering clues, hot on the the trial of the “suspect”: The “Know-It-All”. One must investigate the roots of the behaviour & work toward developing strategies to address the situation – to meet her needs.

& So today I thought I’d share some of the observations with you … I hope that you find the following useful – maybe as a spring board for your own learning and teaching.


The “Know-it-All”:
(Please note that despite the label … she really was (& is) a lovely child!!!)

(I) The Roots:
– attention seeking
– insecurity – wanting to connect with others
– a sense of wanting to belong – of being socially acceptable/accepted
– the belief that being an expert will  make them “popular”/listened to
a string desire to be in control of some aspect of “life”

(II) What to do:
(A) Model/teach/review (e.g. using pictures books, drama, Learning Logs, individual meeting times, etc.):
… social skills – & keep a close eye on what’s going on
… active listening skills
… conversation skills

… reflective thinking skills

… the “wait time” necessary prior to responding (e.g. processing time)

… empathy 

(B) Provide her with:
… appropriate attention; recognize her efforts – ultimately this is what she is seeking
… special/desirable/appropriate jobs that make her feel good, smart, valued – giver her opportunities to shine
… an emotionally supportive environment
… time / activities for social skills development
… opportunities to process, reflect, reevaluate
… opportunities to see/evaluate/debate opposing points of view
… opportunities for “choice” – so that she can feel in control at times (but be sure to set limits)

(C) Partner with:
… her; let her know what I am seeing, what we are going to do & why. As the teacher I have to be empathetic, understanding, open, prepared & strong.
… other teachers & specialists who work with her at school 
… parents – we are a team after all

(III) Never(!!!):
… ignore, embarrass, appear to be frustrated or “annoyed”
… never allow her peers to tell her “come down on her”- that is an adult responsibility (e.g. to address and correct behaviour)

5 responses to “The "Know-It-All" in the Classroom – Meeting the Needs of Students

  1. >Hi Ally. Thanks for your amazing blog. I am a first-year teacher on a year 3 class in Australia, and I have used lots of your wonderful ideas in my classroom (including this wonderful post… I have a "know it all" in my class!)! I have a separate question I was wondering if you could help me with, however. I have a child who has ADHD (not medicated) in my class and he loves to touch other children. He leans on them, strokes them, and just wants any physical contact. He is a loving and wonderful boy, but this is a VERY frustrating habbit that annoys many students. His parents and I have tried talking, explaining, punishing (withdrawing), and reasoning with him, but nothing is working! Do you have any recommendations based on your experience?? Thanks! – Jaye.

  2. >Hi Jaye,Thanks for the feedback. I am so glad that some of my postings have been helpful.I understand that you have a child with ADHD (not medicated) in your class who touches other children. This must be very challenging for you, the other children, and for the parents.While I am certainly not an "expert" on the subject I have indeed taught a number of children like this.First, it's so important/wonderful that you are working in partnership with parents. You are a team after all. Second, I would suggest that they take their child to see their family doctor who will be able to provide insights and good sound medical advice. Also, don't be shy about asking others teachers and mentors within the school for support and guidance! I am sure that there's a wealth of knowledge and experience within the walls of your school, and most teachers are more than eager to help!Anyway, I am sure that I can't tell you anything that you don't already know or haven't tried in the classroom — But just as a recap: In order to provide social skills development (and a solid understanding of personal space) you must continue to provide empathetic guidance, support & clarity. When putting behaviour modification strategies in place consistency and patience are certainly required.Some approaches/activities to consider are as follows:Play therapy, drama & role playing activities, games (e.g. space tag, bumper bubbles), the use of picture books (e.g. ask your librarian for books with friendship, social skills, personal space, etc. themes – read, share, discuss) ,over-learning, and the introduction of appropriate rewards. You'll also need a tracking-system in order to help to direct checks and balances in your approach. (This system can be used to track the students behaviours, your approaches, and outcomes. You can share this with the student and parents as appropriate.) Make sure that you and the child's parents are using the same approaches and vocabulary. Share what you are doing, ask them what they are doing. Share what's been working and what's not been working. Ask for their opinions and suggestions.I would also contact ADHD experts on Twitter using a hash tag, e.g. #ADHD.All the best Jay! Your students are lucky to have a teacher like you who is always asking questions and looking for answers!Cheers,Ally

  3. >Thanks Ally! I really appreciate you taking the time to respond. Your response was so insightful (as always) and I will try some of those things. I LOVE your love of picture books (esp. with maths!) – but that's a GREAT idea and I haven't yet used drama for this, so I will see how we go! 🙂

  4. Reblogged this on Newborn Love and commented:
    helpful stuff!

  5. Thanks-these tips are super helpful. I have a little know-it-all in my music class and I think your insight is right on. I look forward to seeing her grow and change!

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