Easily the biggest challenge in an average classroom is keeping the attention of your students and improving their concentration and focus. I say ‘average’, because I’ve had a few colleagues with exceptionally unfortunate schools, students, and situations, but I digress. Lessons seem to drag on, with very little information seeming remotely interesting. How can we tackle this?
Monotony is the biggest enemy and the seemingly best friend of a teacher in the classroom. Some use it because it keeps the discipline in check, but the students then fail to fully master the subject at hand, even if they were motivated at the start.
Monotony is dangerous as it can bring not only your students to a lull but yourself as well. It invokes a dangerous mindset of a mutual agreement that no one wants to be present inside the classroom, so everyone might as well be quiet. Avoid it if you want your students to shine.
This is something that’s a bit tricky to do because many schools frown upon unorthodox teaching methods. However, if you present your methods to the principal and are not discouraged, they can bring results.
Unconventional lessons can be anything that steps outside the norm. Read aloud dramas in English classes while wearing costumes, teach a class outside, or show how a principle of your discipline actually works. For example, bringing a prism to a Physics class to teach about light refraction, or, like one viral image told us, wear an anatomically correct bodysuit for your Biology class.
The purpose of this is twofold. First, it wakes your students from slumber by giving them something strange and curious. Secondly, while there are going to be students that scoff at this sort of behavior, many will be inspired by the fact you care about teaching them so much.
Spice up the Materials
Black-on-white is not enough to invoke interest sometimes. Colourful sheets, especially for the younger students, are a great way to show which parts of your lesson are particularly important and why. Don’t limit yourself to using the textbook. Movies, audio files, props – these are all great tools to keep the students involved.
This is a two-for-one, really. First of all, you need to set up a discipline signal in the classroom. My preferred method is a combination of making alarm noises by myself while turning the lights on and off repeatedly until I make sure the students are paying attention. There is no need to go to such lengths most of the time. Sometimes, it’s enough to just say ‘silence‘ or to lightly tap your desk.
Secondly, you can teach your students an exercise or two that serves to calm them down and give them a focus point. For this purpose, breathing exercises are usually the way to go, though some people practice counting in a foreign language backwards. This is not only good for keeping focus in the classroom, but also for taking control of oneself in adult years.