How to keep young learners engaged

You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to work out when someone isn’t listening. Whether their eyes are shut, or they’re looking in the opposite direction, if the person you’re speaking to isn’t interested, it’s usually pretty obvious!

This is no different when it comes to the classroom and you’ll no doubt be able to spot a student who isn’t paying attention from a mile away. There’s nothing unusual about it, but there are ways you can prevent it…

Start with a warm-up

It’s Friday mid-morning and your students have just returned from break-time, hyper on sugar and low on concentration. There’s only half of the day left and then the weekend begins…

So, you can either kick back and let them run riot until the bell eventually rings, or you can take control and use the time to help your students to take their language skills further.

Getting your class to focus at the start of a lesson is a difficult but essential part of their learning. A popular classroom warm-up is to challenge your students to identify mistakes in sentences which you’ve written on the board – get them into pairs and encourage them to crack the code. Playing Sherlock and Watson will capture their attention, inspire interaction and get their thinking hats (or deerstalkers) on!

Children learning

Get them to move

Physical movement is a powerful tool when it comes to concentration. So, getting your students to move around can be a great way to avoid any distractions. We don’t mean you have to carry out a vigorous, exercise routine – it’s a classroom, not a military training course!

Something as simple as hand-clapping will do. Come up with a pattern and ask your students to replicate it, making it harder each time. Most students will find this kind of moving invigorating – plus it’s an easy way for you to monitor who is taking part.

Think about how old your students are

It goes without saying that different aged learners will respond in different ways to tasks. For younger learners, problems like being tired or hungry is likely to lead to them being distracted or misbehaving. So, through trial and error, you’ll be able to adapt your lessons to your students’ needs. Whether it’s an active class for younger students, or a quieter lesson for older students, get to know your students first and your teaching style will follow naturally.

Get your timings right

If your class is just before lunch-time, you have to accept that your students’ minds will be more on their bellies than your class. No matter how much work has gone into your lesson plan, once the hunger kicks in, things can easily go awry!

Children eating snacks

So, to keep their mind temporarily off their packed lunch, you might carry out a dynamic and high-energy lesson. In a similar way, if you’ve got a lesson starting just after lunch (a.k.a. nap-time), you might want to tone things down and plan a quiet, relaxing lesson. Getting your timings right is not just about your lesson activities, but your attitude too. In the morning, you can be livelier, but after lunch, an easy-going approach might be more appropriate, taking into account that your students have had a long day.

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