50 Actions that Will Grab Your Students’ Attention
Excerpt From Section 5 of “Discipline in the Secondary Classroom”
Adapted from 50 Actions that Will Grab Your Students’ Attention
“There are countless ways to wake up and shake up your students. Prepared teachers take time in advance of the lesson to prevent their students from being bored in class. They combine various techniques and try all sorts of new approaches to get their students engaged in a lesson. Don’t be afraid to try as many as it takes to get your students in the fast lane to success when their attention begins to lag.
Although there are dozens of approaches to take, the following list includes some that are designed to meet the needs of just about every teacher. Mix and match and use these to experiment with the best ways to keep your students on task.
1. Put a humorous drawing on the board or on the overhead or give your students chalk and have them draw a sketch on the board of some of the facts of the lesson. You could also ask the right-handers to use their left hands and vice versa. Asking blindfolded students to draw some of the facts from the lesson also helps focus their attention.
2. Use Christmas tree lights or other colored bulbs to spotlight a part of the lesson.
3. Write on the board three quotations that don’t seem to be related to one another and ask not just how they are related to each other, but to the day’s lesson as well.
4. Use music. Play raucous music or ask your students to identify sounds from a tape. Play bits and pieces of songs for students to put together to make sense of the lesson for the day. You can even sing to your students or have them sing to you.
5. Wear a costume to class or have your students wear costumes. Even simple accessories such as ties and hats can spice up a lesson.
6. Ask students to identify the pieces of a word or sentence relevant to the lesson. Write the letters or words on construction paper. Then hand out these so that students can unscramble them to recreate the relevant word or sentence.
7. Time as many activities as you can. Students work efficiently when they work to the clock. You can also put a student in charge of timing an activity or ring a bell or buzzer when the activity is over. Another way to keep students focused through timing is to announce that a change of pace is about to happen and then begin a countdown. Timing pupils almost always causes them to focus on the activity at hand and mentally prepare for the upcoming change.
8. Videotape your students in action. Even a mundane activity is more interesting when your students are given the opportunity to mug for the camera.
9. Give pupils a checklist of the highpoints of the material they will be studying and ask them to tick off the points that are covered in your presentation.
10. When you ask students to take notes on the day’s lesson, focus their attention with a list of the key words and phrases you want them to learn.
11. Play a tape recording of yourself giving information, or even better, of your students giving information.
12. Show a videotape of other pupils modeling the same work you expect yours to do.
13. Give your students soft play clay or other gooey stuff with a specific task to accomplish with it. It’s hard to be bored and to play with something gooey at the same time.
14. Make nametags for your students. There are many different ways you can use this strategy in your classroom. Your students could role-play the names they have been given. You could place the tags on your students’ backs so that they would have to work with other students to try to figure out the roles they have been given. You can also use nametags in group activities to assign various tasks.
15. Hand out pictures of people and have your students make guesses about the people in the photographs, match them up, notice specific details, or use them in other activities.
16. Have your students vote to respond to questions by signals, standing, holding up signs, or other ways that appeal to their sense of fun.
17. Counting down from ten to one will alert even the most mature students that they need to focus on you, and not on their classmates or daydreams.
18. Ask everyone to stand and do a series of silly movements such as touching their left elbows with their right hands or putting both hands on their heads. This will generally shake out the cobwebs.
19. Hand your students a newspaper or magazine with words missing and ask them to supply the missing information.
20. Show a cartoon that pertains to the lesson and ask students to create a caption for it.
21. Present a slide show. Even better, ask your students to prepare a slide show about a school event, a lesson in class, their interests, etc.
22. Turn the lights low to signal a change of pace.
23. Use computers in your classroom. Even the most routine tasks are more fun and are easier when students get to use computers to do them.
24. Put a list of words on the board and ask your students to determine what they have in common. Use this to change the pace of a lesson. Adding unlikely names or words to the list will force your students to stretch their minds.
25. Take photographs of your students in action during a lesson."