We’ve all been there. You’ve read the classroom vibes and can tell that despite you doing your best performance in front of the interactive whiteboard – jazz hands and all - there are those one or two faces that aren’t looking your way. Their attention is swallowed up by something else more favourable or they are indulging in conversation with another pupil or even with themselves. It could be that your lesson is, sorry to say, a bit of a bore, or the pupil ‘s attention and focus difficulty could be a more specific barrier to learning. So how do you grab your pupil’s attention? How can you make a quick save to pull back their attention?
1. Change the pace
Who has been in a lecture theatre where the lecturer has delivered a 2-hour presentation and you completely switched because of their slow and monotone voice? In fact, it was so uninspiring that your mind drifted off to images of you on a beach with a happy hour cocktail and you found at the end of the lecture you had to catch up on your friend’s notes afterwards. Yes – this has happened to me and is likely to have happened to you at some point.
You really need to make a three-course meal out of those lessons you know might be less exciting at the core. That can sometimes be achieved by changing your delivery. Bring a lesson to life by changing the tone and pace of your voice. Now, I’m not talking about sucking on a helium balloon before you came to school! I’m talking about the subtle nuances in tone and variation that are just enough for a pupil to hang on to your every word.
Decide which parts of the lesson need to be delivered with a slower pace, feeling more dramatic and which parts need speeding up – perhaps to emphasise a time-pressured task or a quick challenge. However, you do it, make it feel interesting.
2. One voice at a time
There is nothing worse than being in a classroom where the teacher is teaching and the pupils are talking to each other at the same time, or a TA is having an audible conversation at the back.
Imagine the stress and anxiety that would come with trying to block out all the other voices to focus in on you.
It’s time to get that noise level under wraps. Sit down with your TA and set your expectations for your classroom. Ask them to help you by being the noise police and make it a classroom rule that to show good listening, we do not talk when others are talking. Use silent signals to show when you want a silent room or for when conversation or talk-partner work is allowed. Practise those signals so the class are all familiar with what they mean and will respond like second nature.
It can also be a task to try and listen in on what Miss Whatsherface is saying when she’s also playing some dramatic classical instrumental in the background. There is a place for music in a lesson, but where possible use it to drive children’s activity time and not at the same time as teacher-input.
3. Have a brain break
The reason a brain break is a good idea is so that these little minds do not get over-fatigued with all this new learning. It’s also great to give you a breather too!
You can either pre-plan these breaks, or you can ‘read the room’ and introduce a break when you can feel that the attention is drifting (or sinking like a lead balloon)! Brain breaks can happen as frequently as you like but the older the child, the longer they are likely to be able to sustain concentration. This is unless they have a specific cognition and learning difficulty that prevents them from staying on task for long periods of time. For this you may want to think about more individual targeted intervention. You can get some more ideas for this in my online tutorial all about Attention and Focus Difficulties.
I hope you’re inspired to give some of these a go! Please do share your results in the comments. I’d love to see and hear examples of you trying to #changethepace so tag me @loudlingoltd on your examples (no matter how hilarious) on Instagram. Also, if you’re interested in hearing more about the Attention and Focus Difficulties course when it goes live, please don't forget to sign up as a member of the Loud Lingo website below to get the news HOT off the press.