by Amber Hodgson, M.A., CCC-SLP
Attention plays a very important role in students’ success in the classroom.
Attention allows students to “tune out” unrelated information, background
noise, visual distractions, and even their own thoughts. By doing this, students
are able to concentrate and focus on the important information being given
by teachers. All students can have problems attending to their teachers from time
to time. However, students with learning disabilities, processing problems, or attention
deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can have more frequent and significant problems
attending to their teachers. Therefore, teachers have a critical role in keeping
students on task and attentive. Here are some strategies both regular and special
education teachers can use to increase focus in their classrooms:
Structure the classroom effectively. Try to arrange
desks in a way that allows all students to equally be able to focus on you. You
should also be able to move around the room to get to all students easily in order
to respond to questions and better control behavior.
Keep directions/lessons clear and concise. Begin lessons
with examples and activities that attract students’ attention and that get them
ready for the information that follows. Use both verbal and written instructions
during lessons. Ask the students if they understand the directions, and see if they
can repeat them back to you. Provide follow-up directions in writing and highlight
or underline key words.
Monitor your talking. Decrease the amount of time you
lecture, and try to incorporate more questions to get the students involved. Students
are more likely to participate and engage in what they are learning if they feel
like they have a choice and a voice in the activity or lesson. Questions also help
students focus on what is more important to learn. Ask questions at the end of a
lesson, but also before the introduction of new material.
Develop signals. Use special signs to let students know
that it is time to focus attention. You can hold up your hand and have all of the
students hold up as many fingers as you to signal that they are listening. You can
also use bells or other musical instruments, give a countdown, hold up color-coded
cards, turn on and off the lights, or clap a rhythm until all students are repeating
it. A timer can also be effective.
Engage through movement. You can provide opportunities
for physical tasks in the classroom. Students can go up to the board to write their
answers to questions. They can also help pass out papers, erase the board, or collect
materials. Students will listen and focus more if there is a chance for active participation.
You can even set aside time to do some stretching before or between lessons.
Vary teaching styles. Recognize that students’ learning
styles can be very different. You can show information visually through graphic
organizers, charts, maps, or software. You can also engage students by incorporating
dance, drama, music, puppets, experiments, and other forms of active or hands-on
learning activities. Students can also learn by doing projects or giving presentations
with another classmate or in small groups. Remember, relating the topics of discussion
to the students’ interests greatly helps increase classroom attention and participation.