You probably already have a few tricks up your sleeve to retain and regain your students’ attention. But it never hurts to add a few new tips and tools to your teacher tool belt. Here are 10 tips to help you wrangle your students' focus back to the lesson or task at hand.
1. Be clear.
At the outset of class—or better yet, the school year—clearly communicate your expectations. If you have specific directions you’d like to convey to your students for a project or activity, be sure to express them in the way that’s easy to understand and doesn’t lend itself to confusion. Clear, effective communication is crucial to maintaining your students’ attention as the school-year progresses
2. Be patient.
Of course, classroom time is precious, but sometimes simply waiting quietly for each of your students to refocus their attention on the lesson, and on you, is a great way to express just how important it is for your students to pay attention to their teacher.
3. Pump up the volume.
A quick jam session where your class can sing along to one of their favorite tunes is a fun way to regain their attention. Before class begins, cue up a favorite song, and if needed, hit play to redraw your students’ focus to the song and then back to your lesson once the song ends.
4. Play a game.
Short, fun competitions may be all you need to keep your students’ attention. This strategy is best implemented when you see that their focus is straying. Offering a quick brain break with a game like “I Spy” or “Simon Says” will make it easy for your class to regroup and maintain their focus when returning to the lesson.
5. Strike a chord.
You don’t have to use words to regain your students’ attention. Try ringing a bell, striking a tuning fork, or turning off the lights to bring the class back around to the task at hand.
6. Fly like a butterfly, sit quietly like a bee.
If your students are up and out of their seats for an activity, and the time is right for them to return to their desks, ask them to do so while mimicking a butterfly or bee. Animals and insects that move both quietly and quickly are great options, but stay away from those slow-poke sloths and turtles. Though quiet, class may end before they make it back to their seats.
7. Narrate your count down.
Count down from 10 while narrating your expectations to the class. Once you reach zero, your class will have had enough time to finish their work and end any conversations before moving on to the next task.
8. Use clever attention-grabbers.
Sayings like “hocus pocus, everybody focus” and “mac and cheese, everybody freeze” are fun and effective ways to win back your students’ attention.
9. Call and response.
If you say, “Alright, stop.” And all your students respond, “Collaborate and listen!” then you know you’ve regained your students’ eyes and ears.
10. Do the unexpected.
There’s no better way to regain your students’ attention than by doing something totally unexpected. Whether you have the urge to stand at the front of the classroom and howl like a wolf or you think cranking out a few jumping jacks is the last thing your students would expect of their teacher, give it try. The surprise and shock of your actions should help ground your students so they can offer you their undivided attention. What strategies do you use to regain or retain your students’ attention? Share your tips below!