What Method(s) Do You Use to Keep Students Focused, On Track, and Part
Aug 22, 2011 Classroom Management 2094 Views
It has often been said that corralling a classroom of students for any length of time – whether it is 55 minutes or five minutes – to focus on a new learning topic is like herding cats. This seems to hold even truer in the higher grade levels, where the old stand-by of “1-2-3-STOP” to get everyone to settle down and listen is no longer effective.
Since classroom management can gobble up a sizeable portion of the teaching day, what methods are the most effective for keeping students focused, on track, and actively engaged in the lesson?
Direct instruction, while an important tool in learning, is often put aside in these circumstances to focus instead on the introduction of a fun, everybody-out-of-their-seats activity meant to actively involve students. The more creative and innovative the activity, the more successful you will be in actively engaging your students and keeping them on track and focused. One great strategy to get students participating and actively engaged is to introduce a friendly competition where every student has the chance to participate.
One teacher writes about a Q&A game that she plays with students to review material prior to tests. She divides the class into two teams (nothing complicated, left-side and right-side works just fine!) and has everyone stand at their desks. She goes down each row, giving a question to each student. If the student answers correctly, they get to sit down. If not, they remain standing until the questioning loops around again. At the end of 15-20 minutes, the team with the most “sitters” wins a prize such as extra recess time or another treasured activity. Not only does this breed a healthy sense of competition among the students and build self-esteem, but it also engages students’ whole bodies in the learning process and gets the energy (and enthusiasm!) flowing.
For the higher grade levels, group projects or problem-solving activities are effective, especially those that allow for definition of a specific role for each participating student. You could even leave the discussion of who is responsible for what up to the students themselves, if you choose. For instance, you can divide the class into groups and have each group have to solve a problem (a law or historical issue for example), giving each student in the group a specific task. When the groups have solved their problems, they present their solutions to the class. Class debates are also great ways to involve all students, and as mediator, you can control the flow of the conversation by asking different students to participate.
If you increase your effectiveness in “herding” your students, this will create more time for learning, and also improve your students’ retention levels. Prospective employers are always interested in learning about teachers’ techniques for keeping students focused on their lessons, so be sure to highlight this in your resume and cover letter.
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