What is the first lesson for teachers who want their students to successfully comprehend, retain, and apply the newly learned material? Finding ways to catch their attention and keep them engaged is hard!
Getting all your students on task, eager, and focused at the beginning of class is a tough enough nut to crack! Equally challenging is watching them zone out once you have them locked in to the lesson. However, there’s nothing unusual about that; after all, anybody sitting through a monotonous routine is bound to drift off at some point! Until you find a way to capture and maintain your students’ focus, the curve of student learning will keep drooping down. Here are seven ways to combat distractions among students:
1) Warm up Their Brains before Actually Starting Class
A classic and age old warm-up exercise is to ask your students to uncover mistakes planted in any written content on the board, engage them at the other end of fault finding. However, instead of working alone, in silence, and then debriefing in an archetypal question-and-answer session, with each student getting a turn while the others sit idle and droning; employ a blend of competition and collaboration to eradicate what could potentially become dead time.
2) Use Movements to Keep Kids Focused
Have the students in your class stand behind their desks and sync in any choreographed movement which is simple to perform, such as foot stamping, or perhaps clapping patterns to accompany a chanted verse. Not only do students find it highly invigorating, it is also relatively easy to monitor full participation, and may soon become one of your favorite methods of getting children to pay attention.
3) Teach Students How to Collaborate
Attempting to do some team-based work or project learning without prior training can lead to mismanagement and chaos, leading to a lot of dead time. You can nip this in the bud by cultivating collaboration skills in your students before getting a group project started.
4) Use Quick-Writes When You Want Student Reflection and Quiet Time
When you wish to settle your students back down after a boisterous activity, or when interest is fast waning in your lectures, ask them to do short journal writing, or a quick-write assignment. For instance, for primary grade students you can ask something along the lines of, “What was boring about [blank]?” or “What was most interesting about [blank]?” The subject matter for appropriate writing activities will increase in difficulty as the grade level increases.
5) Run a Tight Ship While Giving Instructions
Sometimes, especially when giving instructions, preventing dead time is really important (there can be times when strategic silence is necessary). There are tons of ways to ask for your students’ attention, but any method has a way of failing or succeeding based on how demanding you are of the final outcome. Before you commence a lecture, it is important to command a class that is willing to offer complete attention. If you are consistent in your classroom practices, this will eventually become like second nature to your students.
6) Use Tangible Tools for Classroom Participation
If you foster a safe and supportive classroom environment, where all your students are expected to speak out and take risks without the fear of being teased or put down, then you can ask for participation without setting any students up for failure. Example: write the name of each student on a separate Popsicle stick and put all the sticks in a cup. To keep the students on their toes, pick out a random stick to select someone to answer a question or speak. This way students become subconsciously aware of the potential for having to publicly answer questions when you have the cup nearby.
7) Use Signaling to Allow Students to Answer Your Question
How would you keep all your students actively thinking? Ask questions to which every student must come up with an answer (or answers), and let them know you expect one. Wait for all students to signal when they are ready before asking them to use sign language to convey the answers they came up with.
These are just a handful of the awesome tactics that can be used in the classroom. Below you will find a list of some awesome free online resources that offer additional activities or techniques for retaining your students’ attention throughout the day: