We teachers all know kid do not like listening to us. So what is a good way lighten up the room so they'll like being in class?
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Teaching is like performance art. You have to grab the students' attention right away. I, too, like many of the others who are in on this discussion, don't believe that students don't like listening to us right off the bat. I don't think it is that difficult to engage their interest if you are interested in what you teach. Your passion will always come through. True, you are not going to reach every single student, but the more you engage and involve the class, the better your percentage of contributers will be. One way I do this in my Lit classes is to make the students teach each other. They get very competitive and try to outdo each other, and everyone wins. I also like to bring in "guest" speakers sometimes. My colleagues and I trade out classes and teach each other's students something that we specialize in. It breaks up the monotony of hearing the same voice every day, arouses their curiosity, and provides fodder for class discussion on the day following the visitor's presentation.
We all want to be entertained, and who's to say we can't be learning at the same time? Think how much more interesting meetings would be if we used similar techniques with our peers!
I give my students choices. I feel that when they are given options they are more likely to participate and feel part of the classroom. There are so many different types of learners so it is important to offer many choices in order to keep everyone engaged.
When I ran the waterfront at a summer camp (many years ago), it was always difficult to get kids to pay attention to safety rules. So I would put an instructor in the shallow bay and we'd act out her needing help. I would yell out to the kids, "what should I do, what should I do?" And they would yell back to pick up the pole with the hook, etc. Then I'd throw it in the water and they'd laugh and say, "No, you have to reach it to her." And on it went, with me making mistakes and their corrections until I got it right. We had a lot of fun, they got to see me be silly (and I was always very strict around the waterfront so it helped them not be afraid of me), and they learned safety rules.
Finding an age-appropriate way to engage with them is one key. Sometimes it's in the your approach (humor, facial expressions, etc.) and sometimes it's in the tools you use to teach the lesson.
Project-based lessons can enable students of varying abilities and personalities to contribute to a learning outcome too. That's a whole topic on its own though.
Kids will never like or pay attention to something we don't also enjoy. We have to sell it. We have to be animated, and select both what we teach and how we teach it for high student interest potential. If they aren't listening what's the point?
Kids will only be as interested in the material as you are. Develop a sense of humor for the topic. Find interesting stories and sidelines for the curriculum. Act foolish to get them to laugh. Demonstrate through word and deed that you are in this with them, you are an ally not an enemy, and that you are designing the class so they can succeed with a little effort. Vary voice tone, project, be the actor in the room who commands a spotlight. Greet them at the door each day. Teach bell to bell.
I try to make my presentations SHORT (no more than 3 min of talking before kids get a chance to turn and engage with another student to process the material. 1 min. bursts are ideal.) and SWEET. I start each lesson with a story. EVERY TIME. Even if I can't think of a story to tell about the topic, I force myself to think of some way the content relates to real life. I will even make something up so class can start with a one or two min story about real life, wither mine or some kid's, real or imagined. Then I tie it into the teaching objective for the day, then model the lesson for the class. I find that lighthearted, realistic stories and frequent opportnuities to turn and talk really keep kids engaged in listening.
Regardless of what grade level you teach, it is imperative that you build positive relationships with all of your students. Students need to feel that their teacher is invested in them as a person, as well as a student. Building relationships start on the first day of school and continue all year long. Some students are more open to building relationships than other, however, you must try to reach all students. I use a lot of ice breakers and get to know you activities at the beginning of the year and incorporate activities throughout the year. I try and find out what is important to each individual student, what they like and what motivates them in life and in learning. Attending sports events, plays or choral events of your students is also another way to build positive relationships. I also get to know their parents/guardians and keep contact with them regarding their child. Mailing birthday cards to their home is also another positive relationship builder.
Learning style assessments. I assess each of my classes to find out what each student's individual learning style is. After I complete the assessment, I make sure I varying my lessons to meet various learning styles. If a teacher is constantly lecturing without any hands on activities, they will never interest a a students who learns best with hands on activities. Students should also be given the opportunity to complete class projects according to their learning styles.
After many exhaustive hours exploring putting up innovative displays, re-organising my classroom and looking at my own delivery style I was guided to a simple way to find out what students found engaging in the classroom...I asked them. Some students pointed out that my beloved animated gifs on my Powerpoint presentations were distracting. They liked sitting in rows for individual work, but in groups when collaborating. They favoured a range of tasks in one lesson - some requesting to start with silent reading to 'settle down'. Not all of my classes raised the same points, but it was a useful exercise and I could utlilise most of their ideas. Also they felt empowered that they were directing their own learning, even by a small degree.
You can engage students by incorporating technology, providing interesting culminating tasks, and playing fun review games...
However, one of the easiest ways to have students like coming to class is to show interest in them. Know them. Greet every one of your students by name every day when they walk in. Give sincere compliments too. "Cute scarf", "Good game yesterday", "What a beautiful smile", or "I read your homework...very interesting". Know their interests, know what motivates them, watch their sports games or whatever they participate in outside of the classroom. Take an interest in them in a genuine way.
In other words, listen to them. Once you listen to them, they'll listen to you.
You must meet the students where they are. The younger people are, the more each thinks he or she is the center of the universe. That means you have to enter each universe where the student is. What is of interest to the student? Music, comic books, video games? Students have interests and if we can use those interests to engage them, why not do so? I had a student last year who was interested in military history. So I figured out a way to get that into class discussion. I have a student now who loves art. She did a presentation in world cultures on Islamic art. Obviously, we cannot do this all the time, but as we begin with each new class, it is the best way to get started. Once I show an interest in the students, they seem far more willing to show an interest in what I have to give them. There should be a certain reciprocity in the classroom.
Each student learns in a different way, too, and thus, it is up to us to provide ways of learning that meet the needs of the student. I work at appealing to as many senses as possible, with music, visual material, hands-on projects, and sometimes even food.
I also think that when students are engaged in teaching themselves and one another, they are not as likely to be bored. There is no reason why everyone in the class should not be responsible for teaching everyone else, including the teacher, something about the content area.
I know this sounds like a great deal of work, and it is, but when one of these connections is forged, I swear I can see a lightbulb go on, and it's all worth it.
First, if parents would teach their own children at an early age that school is an important and serious educational experience, then teachers would not have to continually worry about ENTERTAINING them in order to keep their attention. Too many students attend school strictly with a focus on the social aspects that go on in between class time and then complain because class isn't fun or exciting each and every day. Some subjects, such as math and grammar, for instance, require serious and often monotonous repetition and a like atmosphere for optimum learning.
Brain research has shown that individuals can only remain optimally focused for a certain period of time. I'm not sure how long this is, but it seems to me that it is less than an hour. Breaking a lesson up into smaller sections and having some kind of transitional activity between the sections (even if it's just to stretch)might help.
I have not read the other posts, but here is something I have learned over the years. When I started teaching, and kids seemed to be focused on other things, I used to think they weren’t listening. When clearly explained instructions were not followed, I used to think they weren’t listening. With age and maturity as a teacher, I have come to realize that sometimes those very kids who don’t "listen" are already processing something I’ve said. Perhaps understanding that all students process in different ways and at different speeds would help.
I like to lighten up the room through humor and banter, just joking around with them. Sometimes I play really short video clips to emphasize a point in something we're discussing. Often as not, the clips are humorous but really drive home a point. But I think there are many additional ways to make class appealing. I've found that when students see that you're personally interested in THEM that they really respond. That's tough when you have big classes, but even a moment of direct eye contact, using their name, stopping them on the way out or the way in to ask how their weekend went...all goes a long way to making them want to be there.
I have always found that the classes students respond to the best are the ones that encourage lots of debate, allow them to voice an opinion, reassure them that others are genuinely inetersetd in their contribution and that they are being actively listened to . Strangely enough it does not seem to matter what the subject matter is in the terms of arts and humanities. For example, I have seen kids who never thought they had an intest in politics or religious studies get very engaged , hot and bothered during debates on subjects as divers as the death penalty or body piercings. I have seen kids who state that they have no interest in history get very excited during well-managed debates on slavery or the Irish potato famine. I think soooo much depends on the teacher - and not the setting.
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