20 Ways to Keep Your Students’ Attention

As the end of the year approaches, it can be more and more challenging to keep your students’ attention. Brain Breaks are important, but there are plenty of things you can do within a lesson to keep kids from day dreaming…or worse yet, nodding off. Here are some ideas:

Kids' minds wander; that's just a fact of life! Help your students bring their minds back to the lesson with these 20 ways to keep your students' attention.

  1. Desk Switch: Students have ten seconds (count down from ten) to find another desk to sit in that is in a different part of the room than his or her normal desk. Students stay in that desk for the rest of the lesson. Why? Two reasons: First, switching desks gets them up and moving. Second, sitting in a different place in the classroom will give them a different perspective and wake up their brains a bit.
  2. Position Switch: Have students turn their chairs around and sit straddling the chair with their hands resting on the back (girls in dresses can sit side-saddle). While good sitting is important, a few minutes of sitting differently can keep kids alert. Another idea is to let kids sit on their desks with their feet on their chairs (which they will love!)
  3. Wander as you teach. If you don’t need to be glued to the board, then wander throughout the classroom. Most kids will track you, which will keep them alert, and if you see someone having trouble focusing, you can stand right next to him or her for a quick perk-up.
  4. Give each child a small ball of play dough to fidget with if you are doing a lecture-type lesson.
  5. Throw students a foam ball when calling on them to answer a question.
  6. Randomly and frequently ask students to repeat what you just said.
  7. Choose a fun word, such as, “Shazam!” or “Bazinga!” Every time you say the word, students must use both hands to hit the tops of their desks two times and then clap two times. Say the word several times throughout the lesson. It will wake everyone up!
  8. If you have experience in theater, improv, or just like to have a little fun, teach a small portion of the lesson with an accent or imitating someone famous.
  9. With younger students, teach with a puppet or give a voice to a stuffed animal.
  10. Throw in a joke every now and then.
  11. Use student volunteers. Any time you can call a few kids up to the front to be part of a demonstration, do it. It can be as simple as having them hold up signs (rather than displaying the same information on the document camera) or writing an answer on the board. Better yet, just call on students to help rather than asking for volunteers.
  12. If a lot of kids look sleepy, stop talking and write a simple command on the board such as: “Put both hands on your head.” The silence should alert day dreamers that something is going on. Follow up with two more written commands. Make the last one something with sound just in case a few kids haven’t caught on, such as, “Clap three times.” Continue with your lesson.
  13. Wear bright colored clothing. If you want to keep their attention, you should be the most interesting thing in the room.
  14. Have students explain something they just learned with partners.
  15. Require a response from everyone, rather than calling on one student, by using individual white boards or by having students signal yes or no with sign-language.
  16. Teach outside. This, of course, could have the opposite effect with students being even more distracted, but on a beautiful day it could be a nice break for everyone to sit under a tree with a clipboard rather than inside at a desk.
  17. Animate those PowerPoints! If you don’t have time or know how to do it yourself, you could probably find a helpful upper-grade student who could add some animation to a PowerPoint that already has the content.
  18. Require students to take notes. Every so often, have them do a quick, related sketch in the margins. For example, if you are learning about Abraham Lincoln, give them 30 seconds to draw log cabin in the corner of the paper.
  19. Throw in a higher level thinking question that is related to the lesson (but not part of your objective) and have a quick discussion. For example, if you are learning proper ways to use a comma, ask the students which punctuation mark they think is the most important and why. Questions like these are also fun to put at the bottom of a worksheet and have students answer on the back.
  20. Let students know at the start of the lesson that they will need to write down three things they learned as their “ticket out the door.”
This post was written in response to the Five-Star Blogger Challenge posted on The Organized Classroom Blog. Take a peek at the link up there to see more great Five-Star Blogs!
Did you get a new idea? Have one to add? Please let us know with a comment!
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