How do I keep a class' focus?
Well there are the usual steps.
- Make classes dynamic and interactive not just a lecture.
- Appeal to all types of learners with pictures, songs, texts and activities.
However, when I really think about what I do to keep my classes focused: I focus on them. Here are probably the 6 most noticeable steps I have taken to focus my lessons on my students.
1. Though I am not a gigantic twitter fan, my students are, so I have a twitter account I use with my students. It works fantastically. They stay up to date with assignments, are easier to reach if I have a question, and are more likely to ask me when they have questions. Using twitter is easy enough for any teacher to do it (Twitter 101) and it keeps my students engaged.
2. I also know my students love memes, puns, and other things found on sites such as 9gag or funnyjunk. So I make sure to peruse the sites and grab any class appropriate pictures which I can use in class. Many time this is a grammar comic, but sometimes it ends up being something relevant to something we've read in class (The Body by Stephen King, The Black Cat by Edgar Allen Poe) by showing them that the stuff we learn is still referenced in places they like they become more interested in class. These things can be tweeted, or used as attention getting devices in a lesson.
3. In addition to 9gag and funnyjunk most of my students are musicphiles. So at least once a week I work a song into the lesson somehow. There are tons of ways to do it! Even though I try to avoid clozes, those will work in a pinch. Here is a bunch of ways to use songs in class. Even when I am not using the songs themselves I use the artists. Instead of a textbook text students need to correct I'll use an article on PSY's rise to international fame where I have added errors. Or when making fill in the blank exercises instead of, "Susie, _____ is Johnny's friend, is tall." I'll say, "Lady Gaga, _____ is a singer, has a crush on Justin Bieber." Students pay much more attention to those worksheets!
4. Students also like movies (surprise, surprise) so I try to get visual clips in whenever. This semester we are reading the Body. Each week, after they take the quiz, they will watch the excerpt from the movie (Stand by Me) that matches what they read. We will discuss the differences and they will be able to cement their understanding of the story. I also use short films, silent films and use music videos like films!
5. And of course... GAMES! I don't use them all the time, but I have a staple of games that can be used at the end, beginning or middle of class to review grammar, vocabulary or general concepts. Sometimes they are games designed to cool things down (Like a folding game) other times they are to wake them up (Snowball Fight!) and everything in between.
6. Finally, I make sure to include students in my classes. If that means using pictures of them (school pictures that I have permission to use) when teaching about relative phrases, then that's what I do. I use them as examples (always appropriate) in worksheets as well! Most importantly I promote what they do! If they made an awesome video as homework, I save it and show it to other classes (Reference Words, Commas, Relative Clauses). Not only do the students whose work I share feel a sense of pride and accomplishment, but the other students are interested in seeing their friends' finished product and thus pay more attention.
Do you use any of these? How do they work for you?