As humans, our minds regularly wander. This especially happens with students who feel they are stuck in a classroom against their will for hours each day. It is the job of teachers to attempt to keep these young minds actively engaged during lessons, and therefore more amenable to learn and actually retain what they have learned. It has been proven that students who are engaged in what they are learning are more likely to become interested in it – meaning that learning no longer is a chore for them. When you learn how to keep students engaged, it becomes second nature. Here are some ideas on how you can keep your class interested in what you have to teach.
10 minutes on, 2 minutes off
The 10:2 method has been tried and tested by teachers around the world. The general principle is for every 10 minutes of teaching, give the students 2 minutes to respond to the instruction in some way – for example, by writing a summary or by discussing among themselves. Mixing things up reduces ‘dead time,’ and means your students’ minds are less likely to wander.
Keep them moving
Keeping the body active also helps to keep the mind active, and this is just as true in the classroom as it is in the outside world. “Allowing kids to release any stress and energy that they have built up is a great way to keep them focused,” says Paula Benjamin, an Australian educator. “Keeping them moving around the classroom, doing different activities, sitting and standing, energizes students, and they often look forward to these activities at the beginning of lessons.”
Don’t go at a snail’s pace
A common mistake that many teachers make is that they need to go slowly in order for students to take in information, when in fact, this is not the case. Keep them bouncing from topic to topic, actively moving around the room, and doing different types of learning. If you keep things moving from point to point, they are more likely to actively engage, as you don’t lose them rather than belaboring a particular point. Give your students more credit – they can keep up! If you see some students lagging behind or not wanting to participate, try to surreptitiously give them some special attention, or see if they want to stay behind after class so you can explain things again to them.
Tell them how they are doing
Providing regular feedback throughout the lesson is one of the most important ways to keep students’ attention. By giving praise and gentle nudges in the right direction, they will want to carry on listening. It is also crucial to give comprehensive guidance and feedback on their written work. Some teachers find it useful to recommend extracurricular online writing services such as Stateofwriting and Simplegrad to help their students sharpen their writing skills.
Allow some thinking time
When you ask a question, make sure you give students enough time to answer, but don’t let it drag out into uncomfortable silence. “Regularly asking questions ensures that students are actually listening to what you’re saying”, says Jennifer McNutt, an Australian teacher. “Incorporate signaling to let them know when they know the answer, making what could be a daunting experience (answering questions in front of the class) into a fun game”.
Use the 3-2-1 method
A favored method by many teachers to make sure students have integrated a lesson is to use the 3-2-1 method at the end of every class. Have your students write down three points they have learned, two ideas that interested them, and one question they have about the topic. Allow them to share what they thought with their classmates; encouraging a discussion between the students themselves is an excellent way to heighten engagement.
Take a breather mid-sentence
It sounds strange, but by periodically pausing mid-sentence, the human brain cannot help but want to fill the gap. Keep stopping at important points in your speech, and you will be amazed by how students fill in the blanks, keeping them engaged without them even realizing!
Keeping your students’ attention is one of the biggest challenges that a teacher can face, and it can be very disheartening when you can feel their focus slipping away. Every student is different, and has different ways of learning and retaining information, which you should always bear in mind. By practicing a few of these techniques, you will see a marked improvement in how students respond to your lessons.
Chloe Bennet is an educator at Essayroo and Do My Assignment services. She writes about latest edtech trends and manages a few newsletters for college students. Also, Chloe teaches academic writing at BoomEssays, educational website.