Many students don’t have a long enough attention span to make it to the end of this article. While some researchers claim that healthy teenagers and adults have an attention span of 10-12 minutes, others argue that there’s not enough scientific evidence to back this statistic.
But with these numbers in mind, it seems natural that students find it hard to stay concentrated throughout a class that lasts 45-90 minutes.
However, psychologists agree that there’s a relationship between active learning and attention. Incorporating interactive teaching methods and collaborative activities results in fewer wandering eyes and minds in the classroom.
Here are some strategies to engage distracted students in the classroom and keep them focused throughout the class.
1. Start off strong
Increasing student engagement and grabbing their attention from the very start is essential. Besides presenting the topic and outlining the structure of the lesson, you should also use the first minutes to engage the class and spark curiosity. These ideas will help you get the job done:
- Tell a story from your personal experience.
- Use humor – a joke or a funny video that is related to the topic.
- Make an arguable statement or give a quote and let your students have a short debate.
- Set a challenge and promise to give hints that will help to solve it during the class.
2. Keep it multi-modal
Different students learn differently. Some of them are visual or auditory learners, while others are better at memorizing information through reading, writing or even the sense of touch. And most often, each student possesses several learning styles at the same time.
Incorporating different types of media in your class — such as images, video, audio and interactive activities — provides you with more ways to “upload” the information into your students’ brains and enhance their learning potential. Replacing the traditional lecture with various teaching modes during a single class will also help you keep the students’ wandering minds focused.
Besides making PowerPoint presentations with different media, you can also use animation tools as a fresher way to deliver the concepts.
3. “Shake the things up” every 15 minutes
Educator and psychologist Annie Murphy Paul says “Human beings quickly become habituated to the status quo. When something in our environment shifts, however, we start paying attention again. A good rule of thumb is to switch things up every 15 minutes or so.”
Whether you tell a joke, show a video or suggest a game, introducing a change helps you liven-up the classroom and increase student engagement.
4. Do it digital
Students are more tech-savvy than ever before. Technology has become so integral to their lives that many of them can’t even imagine living a day without the internet. While the use of gadgets in the classroom is still somewhat controversial, the fact remains that students come to school with their smartphones and often use them to surf the internet during the lessons.
Using technology-based methods in the classroom helps teachers increase student engagement. So rather than banning the use of gadgets in the classroom, you should think of creative ways to use them as a teaching aid.
Whether you choose to run a classroom blog, go on virtual trips, check the attendance or connect with other students worldwide, technology will help you meet your students where they actually are and enhance their learning experience on their terms.
5. Run polls and quizzes
Questions are an integral part of active learning. They measure the students’ understanding, develop critical thinking skills and make them actively involved in the topic.
However, many students, especially those in later grades, often feel uncomfortable answering questions out loud before the classroom. The fear of speaking up makes them go into their shells and lose interest in class.
The good news is that technology allows you to change the traditional way students answer your questions. Using web and text polling tools, such as Swift Polling by ExciteM, you can create polls with multiple answers, challenge your students on their knowledge and bring some healthy competition to the classroom.
Students can respond online or with text messages, turning their gadgets into a learning aid. The ability to answer questions anonymously will help shy students open up and take part in the activities. You can easily track the results, share them with students and even reward the winner of each poll with a small prize.
6. Gamify it
Most students loves to play games, regardless of age. Many studies have shown that playing digital and board games increases the overall motivation to learn.
So why not use games to re-energize and engage distracted students?
While there’s no silver bullet for student engagement in the classroom, there are still many simple things teachers can do to improve their chances of success. By incorporating some of these techniques and tools in your classes, you’ll watch your students become more interested and involved in active learning.