Diversity and choice are the keys!
Now that differentiated instruction is the most accepted teaching methodology these days, one should not have any problems keeping students entertained in class.
Differentiated Instruction is the act of assessing students prior to the teaching, understanding each of the student's needs and likes *based on prior assessment* and then designing a diversity of projects that would touch on the wants and needs of students in a variety of ways.
This sounds hard, but it isn't. Think about it. After you do a student inventory and assess your students prior to the lesson you can get a clear idea of who is who in class. Then, you make pairs of students based on those who are MKO's *most knowledgeable others* and pair them with struggling students who share the same things with them.
The menu of projects that you provide them are ALL based on the SAME skill. For example: If I am going to teach ordered pairs on Friday and I know that 10 of my students are very low in math and 8 are better suited, then I will pair up those students and give 4 different centers in class ALL based on ordered pairs at different levels of difficulty.
First, teach the lesson as a whole group for about 20-25 minutes. Ask if there are any questions. This is the analytical part of the lesson.
During those 25 minutes show pertinent samples of work and creative ways to use the skill. For instance, you can show a game of Battlefield on the computer and explain that, hey, those are ordered pairs too! This is the "creative" part of the lesson.
Then comes the application part or practical part of the lesson, where students will try it themselves. This section should last 25-30 minutes and it is all self-directed by the student.
Tell the students that in the next 25-30 mins they will have a menu of four different activities that they will do with a pre-assigned (MKO) partner. Assign the NON-MKO student to be the leader so that they would select the project.
They all will complete at least two. The MKO will be the leader and chooser of the second project. That way both students choose to their levels of challenge.
As they finish their projects, they will place them in a box, folder, or space in the room for YOU to look at as they go to their second try.
Notice how there is no drama, no teacher intervention, the kids are engaged, and you may be even be in a corner working on something else, while everyone is at zen.
Before you know it, they have directed their own instruction and you have exposed them up to four times to the same skill.
The next day, in those 25 minutes of analysis ask them to give you feedback and asks questions. Model the skill again in other ways. Have them try it.
In the last 25 minutes they can complete the other two projects the way they did the day before. At this point, you can call them and discuss your findings with each student in a teacher-student conference.