Do you wish you could help kids focus better in class when they’re having trouble paying attention? Do you ever have a class get sidetracked, but can’t figure out where you went wrong?
We have all experienced days where progress in the classroom gets interrupted. We’ve certainly taught classes where it felt like things were going well, until suddenly then they weren’t, and we weren’t really sure why. Even if this doesn’t happen to you often, it does happen.
Instead of getting frustrated or snapping at your students, you can beat classroom boredom and prevent disruptions before they happen. The key is to recognize your “Classroom Barometer.”
A regular barometer is a scientific instrument used to measure air pressure. Your Classroom Barometer is a student whose actions will let you gauge the “pressure” in the classroom – that is, how close your kids are to getting bored and engaging in disruptive antics.
The Barometer is the student who is most susceptible to boredom. He or she might spin in circles, fiddle with their belt, or interrupt while you are teaching to tell you that they had a pickle with their peanut butter sandwich today. This is the student letting you know that you are losing the class’s interest. Do not ignore them! If you do, you just might find that the rest of your students stop paying attention shortly after the Classroom Barometer.
Listen and watch for any early signs that your Barometer is giving. When you notice them, don’t panic. Now is the time to spring into action! You can get your class back on track with the three R’s: Recognize, Redirect, and Resume.
Recognize – Accept the fact that things are not going as planned, and that you have lost the focus of one of your students. Don’t fight it, don’t ignore it and don’t punish the behavior if it is a minor infraction of the rules, like the examples above.
Redirect – This is where you have to get creative. Take a break from whatever drill you were having your class work on, and announce it’s time for a “Surprise Challenge!” The sudden change and prospect of a challenge will snap them back into focus.
What the challenge is, is up to you. One creative minute can be enough to get your class back on track.
You could have a Fitness Challenge, where students see how many kicks or punches they can do in a minute. Or you could do a Self-Defense Challenge: tell everyone to find a partner, quickly, and demonstrate their favorite self-defense technique. Have a Silent Ninja Challenge minute where students have to be perfectly still and quiet in their best front stance – like a ninja avoiding detention. If you have any obstacle course items, like cones, a Multi-Jumper, or Agility Rings, that can be set up quickly, create a short course and see how many times your students can get through it in one minute (or two, depending on the size of your class).
Use one of these ideas, or make up your own, to Redirect at the slightest indication of boredom from your Classroom Barometer. In other words, you are disrupting the disruption before it happens.
Resume – Congratulate your students for a challenge well-done. Ask, “Who remembers what we were working on before?” It’s only been a minute, so expect to receive a chorus of answers from eager students. Get back to what you were doing, and get back on task.
Your class will run more smoothly and with fewer interruptions if you monitor the Classroom Barometer and follow the three R’s. With practiced and improved perception, you can regain control of a class that might have otherwise been side-tracked by an over-energetic, bored or unfocused student.
On a side note, this formula is not meant to be used for a serious infraction during class like a student being dangerous to himself or another student, or being outright rude to the instructor. It’s meant to offer a solution to keeping students engaged and focused, and keep the interest strong all class long.