Getting and keeping students' attention

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Jerseygirlteach, May 7, 2015.

  1. Jerseygirlteach

    Jerseygirlteach Groupie

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    May 7, 2015

    So, I've started this new thing lately. I refuse to move on until I have everyone's attention. I look around and note who is and isn't paying attention and until I get 100% attention, I tell them that I'm going to repeat myself again until everyone has listened and understood what I said. It takes a lot of time, but a miracle happens when I do this. Everyone understands the lesson! All they have to do is actually listen to me and I get comprehension. But it is such a battle to get their attention. My teaching environment is, to be sure, not conducive to focus and attention and many of my students have serious attention issues. Many of them also give up very easily and decide that something is too hard and others just don't care very much to begin with.

    My question is - what strategies do you use to get and keep their attention. I feel like if I could win that battle, I could win the whole war. :) It saddens me how much is lost in my classroom because their attention is elsewhere.

    BTW, I'm no quiet little mouse sitting at my desk in the corner of the room. I'm loud and energetic and don't go near my desk until lunch. Most of the instruction is in small groups, so usually they're with me in a ratio of 5:1 at most.
     
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  3. Koriemo

    Koriemo Comrade

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    May 7, 2015

    Whole Brain Teaching (I think that's what it's called) has a "game" that they call "Tracking". Basically that means that all students are visually tracking whatever is happening. Every student should be looking at and focused on whomever is speaking. They use a class scoreboard where students earn points when everyone is consistently tracking the teacher. If you are up and moving around a bit as a teacher, it's obvious who is paying attention. Even the quiet distracted ones will be looking at their desk or the floor instead of looking at the teacher, making it obvious that they are distracted.
     
  4. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    May 7, 2015

    Very good topic, hope to hear what many posters think.

    I have 3 points/questions.

    1. some classroom management "gurus" say, give directions only one time and one time only.

    2. How do you feel about the students with academic behaviors who consistently have to wait and wait and wait for other students who consistently do not have academic behaviors?

    3. Are you seeing a change over time in how well your students are paying attention. Is this strategy CHANGING their behaviors?
     
  5. Backroads

    Backroads Aficionado

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    May 7, 2015

    I tend toward the approach of just waiting until everyone is with me. The theory is this will eventually teach kids to respond quicker, when combined with instruction on how to respond, but as Pashtun suggested, some kids really struggle more than others on paying attention.

    On that note, it isn't fair to the quick-responding/attentive students. For the students who struggle to pay attention, other strategies might be in order--but would they still give the former students the best scenario?

    I'd like to say at some point those kids who just won't pay attention need to be left in the dust, but the job of the teacher is to teach the whole class. Yet, at some point, students need to take ownership of learning.

    Today, I was teaching a quick review lesson, and seven students started doing other things. I tried once or twice to reign them in, but they just weren't paying attention. Of course, once the practice session started, these seven students were at me asking "What's a noun again?" and "what am I supposed to do?" I got the class together, and explained that if you weren't listening to the review and the instructions, too bad, we would just meet later.

    Back to the point at hand: I keep attention by trying to keep lessons short, concise, and to the point. I usually have a call I give to gain attention, but for some of my students my voice is just another voice, so next year I plan to get a rainstick or a nice set of chimes--something distinct.
     
  6. Backroads

    Backroads Aficionado

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    May 7, 2015

    I've seen two different schools of thought on this from the management gurus:

    #1: It's the students responsilibility to figure out their behaviors. They know they're supposed to pay attention, they need to figure out how.

    #2: Teachers need to become more involved in developing strategies, making attention skills a significant part of the curriculum.

    Which end of the spectrum do you lean towards? Should our strategies be changing behavior or our attention-getters what they are and it's up to the students to respond?
     
  7. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    May 7, 2015

    I wholeheartedly agree with this strategy.

    Here's what I do. I have a signal to get their attention. For me and my age group it's "I need your attention in 3-2-1". I don't care if they're talking at 3 and 2 but by 1 I expect 3 things:

    1. Conversations immediately stopped.
    2. Pencils down so they're not writing anything.
    3. Their eyes on me until I give them instruction to do something with the "go" signal.

    When all is followed through, it works beautifully. I only explain things once. If they still don't understand, and I think I explained sufficiently, I tell them to "figure it out" because they probably were letting their mind wander or were being distracted. (If it's only one student, they were probably not listening, but you may have to re-explain if a lot of students are confused. I also make exceptions for those with special needs.)

    If I do this attention getting procedure, and there are a lot of students not following through (happens when things get more lax later on in the year) I stop, and have everyone practice until they get it right.

    If it's one or two people who are not following through consistently, I may give them a consequence of a time-out because they're wasting class time, or a consequence of coming in at lunch and practicing this with me until they're sick of it.

    This usually gets them into gear.

    Now this works great when I'm all gung-ho about it in the beginning of the year. I'll admit I let it slip, because I eventually just got into the groove of teaching and just wanting to get through all of the material. I still get the majority of kids eyes on me, but I've been less strict about making sure they have been keeping their eyes on me until I'm finished talking. This is my fault. I've seen real results when I stay on top of it.
     
  8. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    May 7, 2015

    I think it depends on the population of students in your class and the skills they have. OP's students struggle with attention and understanding due to disabilities. Going with the approach they just have to figure it out just won't work. Many need a lot of intervention to get them to the point where they can feel what it is to attend. So, if no teacher has taken the time to really work with attending, some don't know what it means to "pay attention". Attention is a skill that needs to be developed by working with a student, particularly when there is a disability.

    Now, if you know all of the kids can attend and comprehend because they have demonstrated on numerous times in the past the ability to do so, I can see using the strategy that you say it once and after that, they have to work a bit to try to figure it out before asking for help.

    I think there is never a time that a student's need to figure out what is going on should be dismissed completely. Also, there should always be instruction somewhere for the student to refer to while working because it is possible for that student to forget the details along the way. Therefore the instruction for the student whose mind wandered and struggled for a while to figure it out on his own might just be to read the directions out loud and explain them to you.
     
  9. 2ndTimeAround

    2ndTimeAround Phenom

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    May 7, 2015

    I used to do something like this. Until this semester. This semester my students would continue for the entire block. They'd figure it was a free period and who cares if I ever get to speak - they won't pass anyway.
     
  10. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    May 7, 2015

    I agree. As I said, with students with special needs, I make accordances as necessary.

    Also, I almost always have the entire instructions printed out on whatever work I give them to do. If they simply read the instructions they can figure it out. Or they can ask a friend who was paying attention.

    But again, I am a general ed teacher. So it may be very different in special education.
     
  11. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    May 7, 2015

    My response wasn't in response to your post. It was in response to the OP's post which is why I didn't quote you.

    I don't believe I had read your response prior to responding.
     
  12. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    May 8, 2015

    Ah sorry. It thought you were responding to me since our post content was very similar.
     
  13. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    May 8, 2015

    For me it is number 2.

    I need to make sure that I am modeling, setting up opportunities, lessons..etc that are promoting academic behaviors.

    I want my students to know why good learners are good learners.
     

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