4 Ways to Keep Your Students’ Attention

Maintaining your students’ attention doesn’t need to look like standing on tables, singing, and dancing (although, if you want to do that and it works for your students, by all means). I am not knocking it because sometimes I do like to sing and dance (just not on the table…in the classroom). I am sharing my four favorite strategies to keep your students’ attention!

Add their interests

We have heard time and time again “building relationships is the key to classroom management.” That starts with getting to know your students. Once you have learned about your students, use what you know to keep them engaged in learning. Add their hobbies and interests into: 
  • read alouds
  • word problems
  • morning meeting messages
  • writing ideas
  • worksheets
  • games (click to read about games I use for any subject!)
  • classroom decor
  • classroom celebrations/rewards
In this writing activity, I drew sloppy circles on the whiteboard. Then, I asked students to come up with characters and settings. They each got to spin the magnetic spinners then off they went to write!
In order to incorporate your students’ interests, you will need to find out what they are interested in. This Back to School scoot is the perfect tool for gathering information about what your students enjoy in and outside of school. I hold on to these all year long as a reference!

Get Them Moving

It doesn’t have to be a choreographed dance or even pre-planned. Here are a couple simple ways to incorporate movement into lessons:
  • Ask students to stand or sit based on their response
  • High-five a partner if you were thinking of the correct answer
  • Kiss your brain (kiss your hand and tap your forehead)
  • Hand clapping patterns to go with your objective or teaching point
  • Stomp your feet if you agree
  • Hold up your fingers to answer questions (ex. how many ways can you show the number 10?)
  • Add a brain break in between direct instruction and independent work 
If you want to match hand movements to what you are learning, enlist your students to help you develop the gestures! It will make it even more meaningful and less work for you!

Use Their Names

We all know how crazy they get when they see or hear their name (or their brother’s, mother’s, and second cousin’s). But that craziness should be the goal because guess what? They are now paying attention!
Here are some ways to incorporate their names:
  • morning meeting greetings (one of my favorites is when students have to spell each other’s names–I let them use their name tags to help!)
  • spelling/word wall words
  • shared writing
  • swap out a (minor) character’s name for a student’s name during a read aloud
  • task cards
  • editing sentences
  • word problems
My friend Lauren (Teaching in Stripes) makes these editable story problems. You can simply add the names of your students and print! 

Let Them Choose

Offering choices increases student buy-in. But, it is important to be strategic about the choices we allow students to make. I like to set some parameters for my choices. I also don’t give too many choices as that can be overwhelming for myself and my students.  Here are some ways you can incorporate choice:
  • write about this or this
  • where they want to work
  • who they want to work with
  • how they want to show their learning: draw, write, create, build
  • choices in technology
  • provide two different ways to play a game
  • choice in independent work/homework (even or odd problems, pick 6 problems ect)
  • vote on the read aloud
{I love when students choose to work at my teacher table}
My favorite way to incorporate choice is within centers. We use literacy centers daily and math centers 2-3 times a week. On Fridays during literacy centers, I let my students choose their station–including teacher time. I could use the time to pull students for intervention/reteaching. But if they don’t want to be working with me, our time together will be less effective. I have a whole library of activities prepped that I pull from during this time and I can usually pick one that is perfect for the group of students who chooses to come to the teacher time table. They WANT to be there and it is often those mini-lessons on Fridays that stick the most.
I hope you are able to find these strategies useful in your classroom!
Stay smart and sassy!
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