You have a choice when it comes to your attention. You give it to things you value, the things you find interesting or rewarding or helpful. And you withhold your attention from things that seem less valuable to you. We are constantly making decisions about our attention, where to focus it, and how to spend it.
And your students are no different. They also make choices about where to focus their attention. And that’s why it’s so important to provide a classroom experience that students will find meaningful (this is important to me) and rewarding (I can be successful here).
What if we treated students like volunteers? What if we acted as if they had no obligation to learn the things we must teach? What if we made it our mission to cause them to want to learn more?
Wouldn’t it be great if students saw learning as something they get to do instead of something they have to do?
What if we decided it was up to us to create a force that pulls them in? After all, students make decisions with their attention just like the rest of us. Let’s make learning so great it becomes irresistible.
How strong is your lesson’s gravitational pull? Be a force field of energy. Bring so much passion, enthusiasm, and creativity to your lesson that students think, “There is no way this teacher is gonna settle for less than my best!”
Bring that type of energy. Are your students pulled into your lesson? How is the energy in your classroom? How is your culture of learning?
When I visit classrooms, every single one feels a little different. But when things are working right there is a kind of energy that makes learning go. It’s focused energy. It’s energy that’s driving learning forward.
It’s kids really connecting to learning. There’s a kind of positive tension, a push forward that comes with growth.
And none of this is necessarily about specific teaching methods. There are lots of different methods that can work. But where is the attention flowing? Are you pulling them in? The teacher may be sage on the stage, or guide by the side. Lots of methods can work.
But the method doesn’t matter most. Whatever the method, the room is focused. It might be noisy or quiet but there is intentionality. It might be teacher-centered or student-centered, but ultimately it’s learning-centered.
So be intentional about how energy is flowing in your space. And don’t settle for mediocrity. Aim for excellence. Is attention flowing toward learning? Does the energy pull them toward success?
Here are 15 ways to get attention focused and get energy flowing toward learning. I’ve divided them into three different categories.
Connect. Students will focus energy on learning when the relationship with the teacher is stronger.
1. Greet students.
2. Call them by name.
4. Make eye contact.
5. Learn something new about each student.
Communicate. Effective classroom communication helps focus energy in desirable ways.
6. Clarify expectations.
7. Start with why. Explain context and relevance.
8. Tell stories to illustrate concepts. Stories capture attention.
9. Increase student voice and choice.
10. Redirect unfocused energy. Call out energy drifters.
Inspire. When learning is meaningful and authentic, students will give more. Don’t play the game of school. Do stuff that matters and makes a difference.
11. Connect learning to student interests.
12. Challenge students to design, think, and problem-solve.
13. Make surprises routine. Mix it up.
14. Be the Chief Energy Officer. Lead the fun.
15. Incorporate curiosity and creativity consistently.
What else would you add to this list? How would you take these ideas deeper? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.
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