Getting your students’ attention is easy. Keeping their attention can be an entirely different story.
So what are some tips to keep your students engaged in what they are learning and to keep their attention? What are the best teaching practices to keep them focused?
In a world of limitless distractions and shorter and short attention spans thanks to smartphones, keeping your student or child’s focus when they are supposed to be learning or working can be a challenge. Kids not paying attention in class feels like the norm anymore instead of the exception.
Here are a few ways to keep your learners on task whether you’re looking for student teaching tips, you’re a seasoned pro of a teacher or you’re a parent who wants homework time to be easier.
Use the 10:2 Method (Chunk and Chew)
One way that you can ensure that students are engaged, listening and learning is to break your instruction up into chunks of time. For every 10 minutes of instruction, you should allow them two minutes to ask questions and respond to your lesson. This is also called “Chunk and Chew.”
Your students’ brains are still developing. As they grow and age, their attention spans grow and expand too. How long can your student or child stay focused on one thing? Here’s an approximate length of attention span broken down by age:
2 years old: 4 to 6 minutes
4 years old: 8 to 12 minutes
6 years old: 12 to 18 minutes
8 years old: 16 to 24 minutes
10 years old: 20 to 30 minutes
12 years old: 24 to 36 minutes
14 years old: 28 to 42 minutes
16 years old: 32 to 48 minutes
This doesn’t mean that you should teach or instruct for this length of time. Remember to break things down into smaller portions—chunk and chew—and check in with your students about the content you are introducing. It’s a perfect time to reinforce ideas, let your students ask questions and keep their attention focused on the lesson at hand.
At home, you can use the chunk and chew method to check in and see how your child is doing with their assignment, and you also can give breaks during homework time based on their age and attention span. Even one or two minutes to stand and stretch in the middle of a homework session can be incredibly useful in keeping your child engaged and focused.
It’s a good idea to walk about the room while you are instructing or, as a parent, to check in during homework time. Either way, you let your learners know that you are present and that you know what they are doing. It keeps them accountable. If you are instructing, you can throw in a few jokes or engage physically with your students to keep them on their toes.
When you are circulating as a teacher, you can stop and ask a certain student probing questions. What are their thoughts? What do they want to know? You learn more about your students, and you help them stay focused.
As a parent, it’s always a good idea to stay invested in what your child is learning or what homework they are doing. You can do the same thing as a teacher would: Ask them questions about what they are learning and what they are working on and even just stay present in the room while they are working.
It keeps learners engaged, and when they repeat content or ideas back to you, it helps them to solidify their knowledge too.
Create an Environment for Learning
If you are setting up a classroom, you want to do so in a way that allows all of your students to see you and you to see what they are working on as well. Are they working on a device in class? If so, you can situate desks or learning areas where you easily can see everyone’s screen at a quick glance. Then you know that they are on task, and they know that you know whether they are on or off task.
While we love our classrooms to be bright, fun and exciting places, are there things that are too distracting? Edit down your collection of decor a little bit so that your students have an opportunity to think without losing focus because of too many posters on the wall or trinkets on the shelf. You also can try flexible seating to make your space welcoming and comfortable while still keeping your classroom focus based.
Your child’s study area at home also should support focus and attention. That doesn’t mean that their study space has to be sterile or free from things to engage or excite them, but your student should be able to work without the distraction of the television or a gaming console and without toys or other attention grabbers.
A home study space should be comfortable—but not too comfy—and should be well lit with plenty of room to spread out and learn. You can come up with other tips to create a successful study space here.
Provide a Timeframe and a Clock
For slightly older students (even older elementary-age learners), you may want to try giving them a timeline of how long it should take them to complete an assignment. Of course, we all learn at different speeds, but it can be helpful to have a deadline to stay on task.
At school, project a clock on the board if you don’t have one in your room, and outline how long it should take your students to complete each portion of an assignment.
At home, you can outline homework time. How long should it take to study each concept for a test? How long should it take to complete each worksheet?
When your students have a deadline, they are more likely to stay on task and working as opposed to having limitless time for each assignment.
Create Chants or Songs for Your Younger Learners
If you are working with elementary-aged students, a great way to engage them is by using chants or songs. Even upper-level students can use these tools to memorize large loads of content.
Students can repeat back phrases or ideas or sing along to memorize concepts, and it’s great for classroom management as well because your students are engaged and participating.
Speaking of classroom management, having a call-and-response chant is a great way to refocus your students and get their attention without having to yell. Here’s a fun list of call-and-response chants to focus even the noisiest of classrooms.
If your student is learning German, this is also a great way for them to practice the language aloud and develop their dialect, rhythm and intonation skills. Check out this great list of songs for learning German here, and share them with your students and children.
Make Your Plan Clear
As the teacher or the parent, we sometimes take for granted that we know what the lesson is and what we will be learning and doing. But your student doesn’t have that same awareness. Try writing the schedule for the day on the board or writing up a study to-do list at home to let your student know what the plan is for the day.
Students can lose focus if the plan or objective isn’t clear to them. A written record or outline of the plan provides a road map and a sequence that is comforting and helpful for your learners.
As a German teacher or a parent of a German-language learner, you can outline your plan to introduce a new verb tense or outline your child’s study time at home. Which vocabulary units should they review? Learning a new verb tense or reviewing a unit or lesson doesn’t seem endless when there is a clear plan or an end in sight.
Another way to keep your German learners engaged? Make learning fun and exciting with German books that are fun and interesting. There’s a wealth of resources available at Kinderbooks to provide your students and children with endless educational entertainment.
So if your learners are early readers or they are much more advanced, there’s something for everyone. There are even audio and visual resources like DVDs and games to engage students in fun and new ways.
And schools? You might want to consider joining Kinderbooks’ School Program to get exclusive benefits.