Do This and Your Students Will Pay Attention

Oluwaseyi Adelaju
4 min readJan 8, 2018

The holiday has just ended and most students haven’t been in the classroom for a while — Long weeks of video games, partying and traveling is now beginning to give way to reading, analysing, memorising, solving and several other learning-related tasks. It is such a hard time to be a teacher as many learners will prefer spending the next few weeks talking about the holidays if not reliving their adventures or enjoying their precious gifts.

Helping students pay attention in the midst of this frenzy is the task of every seasoned teacher. Here are few simple but effective ways to get your students to pay attention.

1. Acknowledge the Learners’ Experiences


Yeah, we all know visiting Santa Clause (or Father Christmas) isn’t a big deal neither is visiting the village anymore spectacular (especially if you grew up in a suburban area like me). But to the learner, it is no small thing. Meeting Santa Clause is as grandiose as a dinner with the pope and that random traveling experience feels just like a tour of the moon. Teachers need to be truly empathetic in order to tolerate the learner’s amusement. So the first thing to do here is to acknowledge the learners’ experiences as worthy distractions.

Source: Giphy

Acknowledging the feelings of the learners helps them to feel understood. It also enables teachers to keep their ego and desire to lecture in check. In order to acknowledge the experience of the learners, teachers should communicate the intent to listen and be also sensitive to the emotional attachment the students have towards their experience, gift, or relationship built during the holidays.

2. Don’t Consider Learner’s Experiences a Distraction

Source: Matthew Ball

It is possible to coerce the entire class into keeping quiet or introduce some negative reinforcements as a method of ensuring discipline during the learning process. However, this can adversely affect the overall classroom mood and the pace of learning. Whether students are restless, giving apathetic responses, turning in uninspired work, talking, or texting, the teacher is expected to use any of these activities as an entry behaviour for learning.

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For instance, a teacher once explained how a distracted learner who never writes his essay was made to develop his writing skills by allowing him to write about his distractions. Since this student only cared about football, the teacher made him write sports news for the class which increased his self-esteem, leadership skills and a deeper sense of responsibility towards learning. In order to avoid labeling student experiences as distractions, teachers should inculcate the students’ distraction into the learning process.

3. Pace Teaching to Accommodate Distractions

Source: Retelling Elder Stories Digitally

Undoubtedly, there is a lot to be learned and so much more to be taught. Teachers are tempted to fill up the allocated 45 Minutes or 1 Hour of instruction with tasks and activities. However, with adequate pacing, the teacher can create the perception that a class is moving at “just the right speed” for students.

Source: SlideShare

One way to achieve this is for the teacher to use a variety of activities to accomplish a single lesson objective and by moving from one lesson to another throughout the course of the lesson. The teacher can also allow some talk-time, play-time or lecture breaks so as to allow the students get to refocus on the learning whenever they are distracted.

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In summary, the most effective form of education takes place when students want to learn and teachers want to teach. Helping students get ready for learning makes the teaching efforts made by teachers effective.

Originally published at on January 8, 2018.