How to Teach Students to Pay Attention in School


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How to Teach Students
to Pay Attention in School



Classroom management strategiesSome days, it can seem impossible to get youngsters to pay attention. Here are some great strategies to help you to teach students to more successfully pay attention.

This educational article is written by Ruth Herman Wells, Director of Youth Change and veteran motivational workshop speaker and trainer. I've spent decades learning everything I can about how to help challenged students to succeed in school. I'm confident that these innovative classroom management strategies will work as well for you as they do for me. Starting tomorrow, you can have more of your students paying attention– and maintaining their focus longer.

Strategies That Teach Students

How to Pay Attention in School


How to Pay Attention


pay attention1. Teach Visual Tracking

Few schools or counseling centers actually teach youngsters how to pay attention, but kids won't magically learn these skills on their own– even if you consequence or sanction them. Among the first skills to teach: visual tracking. Here is a sample strategy, but multiple repetitions using an array of methods will be needed. See the follow-up resources below for additional techniques: Use a magnet and metal to illustrate how students' eyes should be "stuck" on the teacher.


How to Pay Attention


teach students to pay attention2. Do the Unexpected

Read this one carefully or you will definitely miss something that is worth a lot. The technique is to hide something.

Remember when you were young, you wondered "Does the teacher really read my term paper?" so you wrote the word "PEANUT BUTTER" in the middle of the paper to see if she was paying attention enough to even notice. You can use a similar technique with students: Bury the announcement of a reward or goodie deep into a handout or the paperwork for a task.


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How to Pay Attention



strategies for paying attention 3. Teach Distraction Control Skills

Among the skills that schools and agencies expect from students, but neglect to teach: managing distractions. Here is one sample strategy, but be prepared to use a variety of methods and many repetitions before the concepts are sufficiently implanted.

Teach students that distractions are "attention-grabbers," then show them how to avoid, modify, ignore, or request help to manage them. You can use a TV, iPod, radio, fan or other noise-generating items to demonstrate avoiding, modifying, ignoring, and getting help with distractions. Don't limit yourself to just audible distractions. Include other types– such as visual distractions– by simply having someone walk through the room, or you can place an unusual or interesting object where students will notice.


How to Pay Attention


distracted student4. Teach Maintaining Focus

It's not just students who have ADHD who have trouble focusing. This is yet another necessary and expected skill that is typically not taught. Again, you will need a variety of interventions, but here is one dynamic technique to start with.

The idea of sustaining a focus is tough to communicate, especially to younger students, and to kids with challenges. If a child can't conceptualize the target behavior, there is little chance they can do it, so it's important to successfully convey a picture of the desired behavior. To give a picture, play a game called "Focus on This." Ask students to focus on an item, such as the clock on the wall. Challenge them to stay focused for 1 minute, then 2 minutes, and so forth. Don't limit yourself to the visual aspects of focusing. Repeat the game but this time, choose an activity that requires listening, and use sound bites or music excerpts for the focus. A fun follow-up is to see who can maintain their focus the longest despite distractions that you create. This follow-up method teaches students how to maintain focus despite distractions. If you offer a reward to the student who focuses longest, you will have a lot of fun while thoroughly "cementing in" the concepts.


How to Pay Attention


pay attentionWant More Strategies to
Teach Students to Pay Attention

We can help you locate the resources you need. You can call us at 1.503.982.4220 or email us. You can also reach us through Live Help. You can also find hundreds of additional strategies in our Problem Student Problem-Solver Store.


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About Ruth Herman Wells

Author/Trainer Ruth Herman Wells, M.S. is the director of Youth Change Professional Development Workshops. In 2011, Ruth was rated as a Top 10 U.S. K-12 educational and motivational speaker by Speakerwiki and Speakermix. She is the author of several book series, a columnist, adjunct professor for two universities, and a popular keynote speaker and workshop presenter. Ruth's dozens of books includes Temper and Tantrum Tamers and Turn On the Turned-Off Student.