Refocusing Strategies for Students in the Classroom

Instructor: Jennifer Carnevale

Jennifer has a dual master's in English literature/teaching and is currently a high school English teacher. She teaches college classes on the side.

What is a teacher to do when students get off track during a lesson? Should we call them out or ignore the behavior? In this lesson, we will learn about strategies that can be used to refocus students in the classroom that foster a warm and welcoming environment.

Keeping Students on Track

As teachers, we may feel that every lesson is enjoyable and exciting, but we know this isn't always the way they are received. So what can we do to help refocus students and keep them on track in the classroom? Refocusing is when you use a strategy to get students back on track during a lesson or activity. It can also mean redirecting the lesson or activity in its entirety.

Read on to learn about strategies and helpful tips that can help keep your students, and your lessons on track.

In the Moment

When talking about refocusing, the first thought that comes to mind is discipline issues. What can we do as teachers when a student gets out of hand or there is a group who is simply not working on their assignment? At the beginning of the year, you can teach your students about a method or tool you will use to refocus during lessons. Some teachers use hand clapping to get students' attention. This could look different for different teachers, but you can teach students a specific pattern to match. The teacher claps her hands, and the students respond with theirs. This conditioning brings the student back into the present moment and allows the teacher to redirect or give other instructions.

Along the same lines, you can use items like a bell, music, or a rainmaker to refocus students and get their attention during an assignment or group work.

Breaks and Breathing

While the strategies in the previous section help refocus during lessons, there are things you can do before lessons begin to help initiate focus. First, have students stand up, shut their eyes, and take a few deep breaths with teacher led instruction. This can be especially helpful after lunch or recess when students have a significant amount of energy. These small meditative moments can help refocus student minds in a way that will calm and center them.

The same can be said for a few moments of teacher led meditation. Turn off the lights and have students close their eyes. In a calming voice, have the students focus on their breathing and talk about setting intentions for that class period. Setting the tone and mood of the room can make a huge impact to the outcome of your lessons.

While these strategies are helpful at the beginning of class, taking short breaks in the middle of lesson can help refocus students as well. It may seem counterproductive, but taking time to let their brains rest can actually have a stronger impact on their ability to get work done during the rest of the class period.

Connecting to Curriculum

While the last section dealt with getting students' attention and setting the mood, this section focuses on strategies that give students breaks, but also focuses and redirects their attention to something connected to the lesson at hand.

For example, instead of lecturing for long periods of time or having students work through an assignment for an extended period of time, have students watch a short video, listen to music, or free write, all of which can be connected to the lesson or unit.

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