As teachers, we know all too well that if kids aren’t absorbed by what’s going on around them, they’ll find something else that interests them. Getting all your pupils focused, eager, and on the task at the beginning of class is challenging enough, but once you have them locked in you need to keep them in that attentive zone out – that’s the hard bit!
The scourge of any lesson is dead time (any duration that you are not holding the classes attention 100%). Dead time interferes with pupils learning, and even worse, it’s contagious. It draws in those who are on task into wondering, “Why should I pay attention if others aren’t?” So, what are the key points that need to be factored into a lesson plan to kill the dead time and keep the level of attentiveness required?
Here are our top six:
- Make a strong start
You can start strong every day by establishing a clear routine and managing pupils expectations. If they know what is expected of them (enter the classroom quietly, take to their seats, and be ready to work), you can hold them to this routine, which will establish order in the class.
Having a clear plan for the day also gets the student’s attention.
- Get Moving
Use movement to get the class focused. Ask all kids to stand behind their chair and join in with a simple choreographed physical movement, use music too if you like. Most kids find it invigorating and it’s easy to monitor full participation, it may become one of your favourite ways to get kids focused and kill dead time.
- Make Yourself Heard
Quite often, something as simple as just changing the level and tone of your voice, lowering it or raising it, will signal to the pupils it’s time to pay attention. If you prefer, you could even use a prop, such as a bell, whistle or buzzer. This suits younger children and clearly marks beginnings, endings, and other transitions within the class.
- Run a Tight Ship
Preventing dead time is especially important when giving instructions. There are a lot of great ways to ask for your pupil’s attention, but many succeed or fail based on how demanding you are of the final outcome. When you begin speaking, it is critical to obtain total silence, complete attention, and eyeballs on you!
- Use Signaling
There are kids in every class that will raise their hand for every question, and there are always those that feel intimidated or worry that their answer is wrong – there will even me kids who didn’t understand the questions at all. To take the embarrassment out of the whole situation, you can use a signalling system, perhaps something along the lines of giving pupils little signs that say “I know” or “I need help”, the children keep these signs on their desks with the appropriate side up, which is an easy way for you to glance around the classroom and see who needs help.
- Use Minimal-Supervision Tasks
Tasks that require minimal supervision add purposeful activity during moments that might normally become dead time. They come in handy when handling an unforeseen interruption, or providing work to those who have finished earlier than others.
Here’s how: While you attend to the matter in hand, ask pupils to pass out worksheets or pair up and quiz each other on times tables.
By creating this arsenal of routines, you’ll be well armed to fight dead and in terms of classroom management and overall learning — is more than worth the effort. Having these activities to draw on, you’ll rarely be at a loss to get the kids back on track. The added bonus is that pupils get to know these strategies and look forward to them.