When students are not doing the work we've asked them to do, maybe the problem is us. I'm coming at this issue as a first grade teacher and I know that affects my thinking. First graders are interested and excited about everything - or at least they can be if you sell it to them. So, when we see that they are not doing the activity, discussion, or work we are asking them to, we need to reevaluate our expectations.
I just unsubscribed from a blog that I often enjoy because of the frequent negativity. I understand the need to vent and I know I do it too. I don't understand the idea that young children should do what we require simply because we tell them to. I question what is required of me often. Sometimes I will do it after I learn why and sometimes I won't. Sometimes I have to when I don't want to (like report cards) but I don't usually do it well.
We expect students to do because we said so. We wouldn't want to be treated that way. When faced with students who are disengaged, we should look closely at what we are asking.