If we as adults struggle to keep focus, how can we expect our pupils to be any different?
It’s impossible for a student to learn what they aren’t paying attention to, so holding the attention of our students is obviously a huge issue for all teachers. We’ve even spoken about it here before when we encourage the use of techniques like differentiation and classroom visual aids as preventative measures for prioritising learning. But even with careful attention to detail and personalised lesson plans, it is likely that you will find your classroom in need of a little refocusing at some point throughout your day.
So, focus up! Here are our top six teaching exercises to realign your classroom and manage distracted behaviour.
1. If You’re Distracted And You Know It, Clap Your Hands!
This is a go-to activity for many teachers, but if it has managed to slip past your radar until now, you might want to give it a try!
Without using words, start clapping and wait for your pupils to respond. Start by choosing a rhythm that is simple enough for all students to repeat, but still challenging enough to hold their interest. If needed, repeat the clap as many times as necessary to gather the attention of your classroom. Using the same rhythm each and every time helps your pupils immediately understand you mean business and their response will soon become muscle memory.
Tip: Rhythmic clapping doesn’t have to be limited to a music lesson; it can be used to quickly and effectively harness the attention of any classroom!
2. Move Towards The Madness.
Take control of the classroom physically, and command attention from your pupils without interrupting your lesson.
Try physically moving towards the children who aren’t focusing, while maintaining eye contact with those who are. This simple action serves as a reminder that while you may not always be looking directly at every pupil, you are always aware of what is happening in your classroom. In most cases, the culprits in your class will adjust their behavior without needing a verbal reminder, allowing you to continue with your lesson plan. When used properly, this technique can have an immeasurable positive impact on your classroom.
Tip: Don’t stop the lesson to wait for your pupils to stop talking during this technique; doing so can turn it into a power struggle instead of an authority reinforcing exercise.
3. “Energy, Energy, Energy! Focus, Focus, Focus…”
This is a quick, yet effective, exercise that relies on your movements and voice.
Using physical cues, make yourself as big as possible and jump around while loudly exclaiming “Energy, energy, energy!”, and wait for your pupils to repeat the phrase. Then, make your body as small as possible, eventually crouching down and pointing with both fingers in sync, while you quietly repeat the words “Focus, focus, focus” and, again, wait for your pupils to repeat the phrase.
Tip: Repeat this activity twice and then continue with your lesson; don’t reprimand behavior before or after using this technique. Use this as a fun solution to wandering focus!
4. Send out Positive Vibes!
Rather than scolding a pupil, try a question instead.
The simple phrase “What should you be doing right now?” is enough to prompt most children to self-evaluate their behavior and respond accordingly. Leave enough time for your student to reply, and if necessary, repeat your question. Once your pupil has adjusted their behaviour, make sure you let them know that they have done a great job!
However, if your students are still unable to answer your question, you may need to repeat your directions. .
Tip: Remember to keep this technique lighthearted and to use praise often.
5. Eyes On Who?
The first time you try this with your class, you will need to explain the rules – but after once your pupils understand the call-and-response nature of the activity, it will be come another quick trick.
In a loud voice, call out “One, two, three – eyes on me!” and have your class repeat the words. Then, call out “One, two – eyes on YOU!” with the class repeating after you again. It’s as simple as that!
Tip: Once your pupils are familiar with this activity, try differing the rhythm of the words to challenge your class’ listening and repeating skills.
6. A Game Will Go A Long Way.
There are many games that help manage the focus of our classrooms, and a particular favorite is called The Fish Game.
To start, bend your left elbow and hold your forearm parallel to the floor, running across your body. Tell your pupils that this signifies the water. Underneath your left arm, use your right hand to mimic the movement of a fish swimming through water. Explain to your pupils that this is a fish who occasionally will jump out of the water. Their job as a class is to catch the fish but only way to do so is to clap at the very moment the fish jumps out of the water. However, the whole class must clap at exactly the same time or the little fish will get away, so it is important that everyone is watching you carefully. Tip: After your students have become familiar with this game, you won’t even need to use words to signal its start – the visual of holding your arms in place will be enough to get your pupils excited! To add more variation, have your pupils take turns leading this game.
Although we know some distraction within a classroom is inevitable, we hope these techniques are a fun and new way to realign your pupils’ attention. Remember, the way your pupils act when distracted is not always an indication of purposeful poor behaviour, so we should not treat it as such. Instead, use positive correction and redirection efforts to reward focus and good behaviour within your classroom.
If you’ve tried these or any other refocusing strategies in your classrooms, please share them! We love to hear tips and tricks from teachers and staff.
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