For middle school students, they must be engaged and not allowed to tune out. For the teacher, that means that any lecture must be very short, use technology or at least use color-coded notes, and directions must be very clear. I find that using Kagan strategies in lecture activities helps me keep the students on task, focused, and each is responsible for his/her own answer. Allowing them to use a partner to compare notes and ask questions of each other part way through the lesson before each pair presents a question to the class also keeps them attentive. Teachers truly need to keep each activity focused and have a variety of activities to teach the same few important ideas for that day. For all students, but especially my honors students, they truly need to be able to discuss, argue, debate, relate the idea to something else, and especially to learn to defend their ideas without getting angry and respect those who disagree. I did not often have students tell me they were bored.
Students get bored because they need change. Sometimes teachers teach the same way, every day and this gets way too monotonous. I think it is important for teachers to vary instruction by using group work, individual work, computer time, educational games, etc. When all of these things are utilized students will not get bored. They will expect something new everyday.
One of the things I think about and try to find ways to deal with is that the very structure of most schools does not always encourage students to be engaged in class or interested. They often have very little freedom to choose what they want to learn, so you have already taken away that motivation. They also often have little freedom to influence how they learn what they are being forced to learn, so that chips away further. Then they are growing up in the most stimulating environment ever seen on earth (tv, internet, etc.) and you are asking them to be engaged in a classroom often for 45-55 or more minutes and wonder why they struggle with it?
A second concern that comes up is that they are always going to be compelled by what is most urgent to them. If they have a test the following period and they know it is a big deal and will affect their grade (which to many means their future) they are going to be compelled to think about and try and study for that test, regardless of what you might be doing in your class.
Self-reflection can be a big help and modifying your classroom practices can also be a big help. But remembering that you are going to lose many of those battles unless your school is structured in a non-traditional way is also helpful at times.
A combination of factors. They have limited control over the classes they take and which teachers they have. Much of the material of traditional classes they have trouble finding relavance for in their daily lives, and/or do not know how to apply it so that it is relevant. Many teachers are excellent in terms of knowledge of subject matter, but lack presentation skills that stduents would call interesting. Many teachers also focus on the structure of a classroom and curriculum, enforcing rules to the point that a positive learning environment that stimulates student interest is stifled. Many kids are "plugged in" to texting and interactions that seem at all times more interesting than what they are supposed to be learning.
Many of these postings point, quite appropriately, to the lack of student engagement, and to the need for technological sophistication in content delivery.
Yet I believe that the number one reason for boredom these days is that the overload of accessible information has made our students a bit numb. They need to find their passion and we need to design curriculum that is open and flexible enough to allow for their own interests to be persued.
Course content needs to be painstakingly re-examined to see if it is relevant to the students' needs in the 21st century. If it is, then perhaps a new delivery method which appeals to them will be the best choice for now. But if our content is too fact-based or the skills we teach are irrelevant, we need to be very creative in finding ways to ignite a spark of interest in learning in our students and the only way to effectively do that (and do justice to their genuine needs) is to re-imagine our curricular pathways to address student needs, interests and passions; otherwise, we're the ones holding them back.
I agree with a lot of great points made in the posts above.
As a young teacher I see two main reasons why students are bored. They are not challenged and invested in/by the subject. Unlike most electives, general education classrooms for core subjects are mandatory for students. While I wish they could see other education systems in the world and feel blessed, I know that the truth of the matter is, they need to see why what you are teaching them in relevant. To challenge students, I find asking them to make connections within their primary discourses a good way to start to get them thinking about a topic. Students do bring their own life experience to the education table and I think this is sometimes forgotten. Ask them to make connections and suggest supplemental texts (for the English classroom this is easy, for other subjects it would work as well with effort.) By having the students incorporate their lives and interests yet also using the problem solving skills to identify then synthesize information for a connection, accomplishes a lot.
Yet if you have a first period class at 7:20 in the morning, it may not be boredom... just lack of sleep.
By using technology to "un-bore" students in the classroom, teachers fall prey to mediocrity and student pressure. Technology, used as a viable and intelligetnt assistant to learning, can be a helpful tool. BUT... teachers need to examine their methods, their preparation, and their passion for their subject. The real reason students get bored is because of incompetent, mediocre, and stupid teachers. We have let just about anyone into this profession - anyone who can make good-looking copies and have students complete worksheet upon worksheet. Teaching is an art, and, while all students are not going to take responsibility for learning, a teacher's knowledge of the subject matter, pedegogical preparation, and, most of all, REAL passion for his/her subject matter will make the difference between a boring classroom and one in which students hold interest. Be a real person to your students - be an example of a mature, responsible, professional, and intelligent ADULT - make sure your students know who you really are as a person and a teacher, husband/wife, father/mother --- they will respect you more for that than showing them pictures and videos on a SmartBoard.
I find that making the curriculum centered around the students helps keep their interest. I teach writing, and for each unit we learn how to get ideas from our own lives and thoughts. I think that this creates more interest.
Also, I think that it is important to keep up a steady pace. Not too fast, or kids will start to feel like tuning out because they can't keep up, but not too slow. Make sure that the momentum in each unit or for each piece is never allowed to wind down. I find that three to four weeks max is the time my kids (7th graders) are eager to work on a piece. After that it is drudgery. :)
Also, I make sure to teach grammar and editing ONLY in small chunks and ONLY to the kids who need it, while we are working on editing for about two or three days MAX. Grammar work for weeks on end, when it is decontextualized from kids' writing, is torture...for them AND me. :)
I think students have been really board in classrooms since their conception. I also feel there are classrooms where students are constantly engaged in learning. The key is the teacher. Societies and cultures are constantly changing. Students enter classrooms each year with a different set of experiences and expectations. I believe students have one thing in common that they all have a brain that is desperately seeking knowledge and answers to questions.
Students become board when the information available does not address their questions, interests, nor stimulate curiosity.
The next question is: "How do we keep boardum out of the classroom?" As a High School teacher of 30 years I know that the teacher is the key. Professional educators must have the skills and knowledge to assess and diagnose their student's needs and orchestrate lessons that stimulate thinking, interest and inquiry. The one essential skill teachers must possess is the ability to ask questions that facilitate higher order thinking. The ability to ask a set a questions that move students from what they know to synthesising and evaluating new information.
How does a teacher make the decisions necessary to ask questions that stimulate inquiry?
Student engagement is a severe problem in today's educational system. There are various ways to increase engagement. I agree that today's students live in a high-speed information age where technology dominates a large percentage of their day. Yes, teachers should be well-versed in different ways of incorporating technology into their classroom. PowerPoints, SmartBoards, and ELMOs are all excellent ways of teaching concepts in a visually ( & possibly auditorally) pleasing way. However, not all teachers have access to this equipment.You can also incorporate technology by creating student projects that relate to technology. For example, have students design a poster of a given character's (or mathematician, historian, etc) MySpace or Facebook page. They can include a short biography, important quotation, "Top Friends", song or playlist that represents them, etc. Similarly, have students write out texts or aims literary characters would exchange.
In addition, teachers can create review games that are fun. Look up games like Boom, Baseball, Spider, Mastermind...or incorporate game-show ideas like Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Jeopardy or Password. Also, any timed review revs students up. Beyond these steps, teachers must give students real-life applications & reasons for learning. By simply telling them WHY they should be invested in a given topic, half the buy-in process is complete. Last, know your students, especially their interests and motivations.
To sort of sum up and/or add to what everyone has all ready said here...a teacher has to make it matter to the students. A lot of teachers get caught up in following the state (city/school)-mandated curriculum, and NCLB, and preparing for whatever state-mandated test is coming up next, that we forget that our job is to produce critical-thinking citizens for our society.
So, yes, it is important to help the students find motivation to take part in class. Let's face it, it's easier to encourage students with extrinsic motivation (grades, prizes, praise) than it is to produce intrinsic motivation (doing it for their own personal gain).
I actually challenge my students the first week of school every semester -- if they can find an assignment (paper, story, etc) in our class that does not relate to SOMETHING outside of the classroom (the news, their future career, something), then I won't teach it. Enforcing that concept/policy usually ends up with the students "defending" me against each other by the end of the year.
Each student is personally responsible for what he or she gets out of any learning situation. If there is no personal motivation, there will be no personal reason to learn.
Teachers are caring people who want to present material for the students to learn. Don't worry! It sounds like you have done everything you could possibly do. You've done your part. Now, each student must do his or her part.
I think most students are bored because thanks to the Internet, video games, cell phones, television, iPods, etc., they are not used to having to hold their attention on any one thing for too long. They are constantly entertained by graphics and music, and when they are asked to sit down and listen quietly while a teacher lectures, they cannot do it. Their attention spans are shot. This is a huge problem in our school. Our students are bored at school and want to be entertained rather than learn the material they need. It's unfortunate, because teachers are left to wonder what they can do and how they can change their curriculum in order to keep their students on task.
Students often say they are bored for a variety of reasons.
1) They are so used to quickly changing events.
2) They are unable or unwilling to focus on one thing for any length of time.
3) The classroom doesn't offer the entertainment that they are accustomed to.
4) Sometimes, students will say they are bored when in reality, they can't read well and sometimes, they can't read at all.
Many good things have already been asserted on this topic, some of which I firmly agree with, and some that I'd like to modify slightly.
For one thing, high-tech gadgets and blinking internet wizardry are not completely necessary to maintain an engaging, non-boring classroom. I am fortunate -- I teach at a school where we have SmartBoards in every classroom, various computer labs for intensive reading help, among other things, and a lot of technology that other schools don't yet have access to.
That said, some of the best lessons I have had in my class have occurred when the SmartBoard is turned off, and when no one has their laptop, cell phone, or other "gadget du jour" available. It is in those moments when we as a group truly get to connect with one another -- no false pretenses, no Facebook personas, just kids being kids, and their teacher being himself. When all the technology goes away, students are left with nothing but themselves, and while that may be uncomfortable at first, after brief adjustments, students very much respond to it.
Technology does not equate to Engagement. The two complement one another, perhaps, but we as educational professionals must not make the mistake of placing all our faith in shiny classroom toys, some of which are more hype than help. It is our choice to have engaging classrooms, and our responsibility as well. A bored student is our cue to step it up and be the best we can possibly be.