Preventing boredom is an essential but difficult part of teaching. By identifying the causes of boredom, educators can keep students alert and focused. Let's explore some strategies for fighting boredom among your elementary students.
Attention Spans in the 21st Century
In the struggle to keep students focused and engaged, teachers in the 21st century face an uphill battle. Constant distractions and the accessibility of various forms of media have taken a drastic toll on the average child's attention span, to the point that most elementary school children have trouble staying focused for more than a few minutes at a time, according to the Student Coalition for Action in Literacy Education.
As a result, students are now even more likely to succumb to boredom in the classroom, and you need to be ready to fight this impending sense of apathy. Fortunately, the very same causes of boredom can also be used to fight it.
Use Technology as a Tool
There's a seemingly non-stop stream of articles and blog posts about the negative impact of technology on the average student. To hear these people tell it, technology such as cell phones and mobile devices represent a serious threat to our education system. There certainly is some truth to this perspective, but what these arguments fail to consider is how technology can be used to help keep students interested.
In summation, technology can make learning interactive, innovative and engaging. Students learning science can use 3D models to understand how cells work, while students learning a foreign language can use any number of online games or applications to test their skills. When used wisely and in moderation, technology is an invaluable source of both information and entertainment.
Even sites that are typically viewed as distractions, such as YouTube, have dozens of educational series that present important material in a fun and innovative way. As long as you fact-check these videos and ensure that the information is accurate, they can be an excellent learning tool as you combat boredom.
Find Your Balance
While it is important to incentivize certain forms of learning, you must be careful not to inadvertently make your students think of traditional study as less enjoyable or effective.
Students may prefer certain activities, but learning is still the top priority, and that can mean putting your foot down and enforcing more rigid instruction methods. The standard 'lecture format' may not be very fun, but sometimes it is the most effective way to reach your students, and they need to realize that school is not always fun.
Students should find your classroom to be engaging, but you need to make it clear that essays, book reports, and other challenging projects are a necessary part of the learning process, even if they aren't especially enjoyable.
Just because you need to present information that students might not find interesting, it doesn't mean that you can't make the learning process more enjoyable. By presenting seemingly mundane information in an exciting format, you can easily get students interested.
If you're having trouble thinking of inventive ways to engage your students, fear not! Thanks to sites like Pintrest, you can browse a virtually endless selection of fun lesson plans that have been tested and approved by your fellow educators. These online communities are frequently updated as teachers find new strategies or improve upon existing ones, so you can check back at regular intervals and find a fresh stock of ideas whenever you find yourself needing help.
Of course, you can also seek advice from in-person sources, as well. Consult your more experienced co-workers. Not only can they offer feedback and advice, but their direct knowledge of your school is sure to come in handy as you find ways to fight boredom.
Adapt to Your Audience
As you experiment with various techniques, pay close attention to your students' reactions. What do they seem to like? Is there anything that seems to be working particularly effectively? If your students do not take to a particular activity, try to assess why. Did they find it boring? Too complicated?
By keeping an eye on the successes and failures of your strategies, you can invent new tasks or tweak existing ones to create an experience that is both engaging and fun.
Transition Frequently & Smoothly
In regards to the notoriously short attention span mentioned above, a constant desire for something new can actually be advantageous if you are savvy enough to recognize the opportunity.
Employing a variety of teaching strategies and formats allows you to switch things up at a moment's notice. You might begin the day with a lecture, then transition to a movie, and finish things off with an interactive assignment of your own design. Or maybe you'd prefer to start with a YouTube video before hosting a discussion and allowing students to share their thoughts. The possibilities are endless, and the frequent changes will keep children on their toes and excited for the next activity.
Too much change, however, can have serious repercussions. Constant transitions keep children alert and focused, but at a certain point, children become overwhelmed and lose focus. If you move too quickly or change subjects before students completely grasp an idea, you run the risk of dividing their attention, leading to confusion and boredom. Allot an even, appropriate amount of time for each activity, and build buffer zones into your daily schedule in the event that you need to go over content a second time.
Keeping children focused can be a tall task, but by identifying potential distractions, you can fight boredom and devise engaging lesson plans that are sure to intrigue.