Saturday, September 21, 2013

What makes kids and teens popular? What makes teachers like students? The Hidden Curriculum

Teachers who have students in special education, meet your new guru-- Rick Lavoie.  If you haven't heard of him yet, Lavoie is an acclaimed advocate for students with disabilities. He is a motivational speaker who has created workshops, videos, and books to help parents and teachers. Watch one of his videos, and you'll be hooked. (I recommend F.A.T. City or Motivation Breakthrough!)

A common term in special education is the "hidden curriculum," which refers the the social skills that students pick up without being taught-- the "obvious" things that "everybody knows," like unwritten laws and social norms. It's not polite to ask someone's age or weight. Don't tell a person that she has a pimple. When a teacher is busy, it may not be a good time to ask a question. Avoid picking your nose in public. Greet people you see. There are countless hidden curriculum examples, which often remain hidden to some of our students. We must teach the academic curriculum and the hidden curriculum.

Rick Lavoie described four types of students, what makes kids popular, and what makes teachers like students. Teachers and parents can provide explicit instruction to help teach these components of the hidden curriculum.

Four Types of Students

  • Rejected – Students who are targeted and openly rejected by peers.
  • Ignored – Students who are not openly rejected but just left alone or ignored.
  • Controversial – Students who have friends and tend to stick to their small group of friends.
  • Popular – Students who have friends in all the controversial groups. These students are liked by people who may not actually know them.

Lavoie suggested looking at controversial and popular traits-- and teaching these positive traits to students. According to Lavoie, researchers have developed a list of seven things that kids typically like about other kids. These results were drawn from directly polling youth.


7 Things Kids Like About Other Kids

  • Smile and laugh
  • Greet others – say hi
  • Extend invitations
  • Converse
  • Share
  • Give good compliments
  • Good appearance 

Lavoie made a list of things that teachers like, which he called, "No Sweats," because they don’t require much time, energy, or effort.

9 Things Teachers Like
  • Be punctual.
  • Establish eye contact.
  • Participate in class. – even asking a question
  • Use the teacher’s name.
  • Submit work on time.
  • Use required formats.
  • Avoid crossing things out.
  • Request explanations. – teach how to ask for help
  • Thank every teacher after every class.

Watch Rick Lavoie's "No Sweats" Clip

How do you teach the hidden curriculum? Share in the comments below!


  1. This is great! I've been meaning to write about this for a while--I love the video! Just shared it on Facebook!

    Autism Classroom News
    A Special Sparkle

  2. Thank you so much, Chris! Isn't Rick Lavoie amazing? I always joke that I want to be him when I grow up. I'm now following both your blogs-- love what I see!


  3. I just love him! Great post! I'm a resource specialist in CA. Laura

  4. Hi, Laura,

    I love him, too! I absolutely love your blog. I'm following you now!


  5. Fantastic post. I always felt bad for those outcast children that nobody wanted to include in their group and the ones that were picked on. It's sad, because most of these kids will never forget the cruelty or rejection by other children. I try to teach my children both sides of the coin. How to be accepted by others and how you should treat others.... especially the ones who have been treated poorly.

  6. Jean,

    What an important thought! You are so right about how important it is to teach both sides of the coin. Thank you so much for your comment!