Thanks to smartphones, kids, teens, and adults have access to fast information, fun memes, and interesting videos at all times. No wonder they don’t feel interested in your slow-paced question-answer class. Inattention grew into an epidemic in the 21st century. However, if you want your students to learn anything, you need their attention and focus. Here are a few tips that will help get all eyes on you.
The reason why many students goof off is often boredom. So, you need to establish a clear routine and expectations as soon as you enter your classroom and give them no chance to get bored. They need to know that the moment you enter, they need to be in their seats and ready to work. Start strong with no pauses and get to the point very soon into your class. Later, you can put your foot down and go easy.
People have this reflex to follow a moving body with their eyes, so if you just walk around the classroom, you will certainly grab your students’ attention. If you see someone reach for their phone, stand next to them or walk near their desks. Students are not supposed to be terrified during your class, but they need to know that there’s no place to hide and slack off. As long as they work and pay attention, they will have a pleasant time.
Establish clear roles
Let’s say you’re doing a class debate. If you want your students to participate, everyone should have a clear role: one can prepare the opening argument, one should do research, one should prepare the counterarguments and so on. When everyone knows exactly what their job is, there will be less chatting and fewer Facebook glances.
Most students are accustomed to certain routines teachers use. Best students sit in the front, slackers hide in the back, the teacher stands at the front—it’s all so predictable. So, ditch these routines and try something new. Have them sit in a circle, teach from the back of the room, change the seating arrangement—keep them guessing. Even just by switching from a black general purpose whiteboard marker to a red or green one, you will spark students’ attention. Get an extra thick marker in a bold color for important things to create contrast and your students will pay extra attention to what you have to say.
If you and your students hate those boring drilling sessions, use a few props. For instance, ask a question, go around the room and toss a ball to a student that needs to answer the question. Once they do, have them throw the ball back to you so you can pick your next “target”. They won’t know who is next! You can use any type of prop that will make boring classes more interesting and dynamic.
Use sound signals
Use your voice to signal it’s time to pay attention. Whisper, then say it loudly and watch as your students jump. You can try using funny voices with young students or change your accent with older ones—they will get a huge kick out of that and listen to what you have to say. You can also grab a bell or a whistle to mark the beginnings, transitions, and endings of your lessons (this works well with younger learners).
Come up with “fun” punishments
Sometimes, there’s no other option than to punish misbehavior. However, the most effective punishment can be super fun! Grab a box, fill it with papers with different tasks, actions, and things your class will have to do when they misbehave. When you think you need to use it, whip out the box and have someone draw a task. For instance, one paper can say ‘pop quiz for the entire class so they have to do a graded pop quiz. One can say ‘you’re the teacher now and the student who drew the paper has to continue teaching the lesson/asking questions/leading the discussion. One can say ‘dance party and the student has to dance for one minute and entertain the class. It’s a very fun yet effective way to keep students at bay.
If you keep them guessing and pick up the pace with your lessons, your students will be much more focused and ready to participate fully. This will make your classes more effective and enjoyable for everyone involved!