Hays UK blog


Top tips to keep your students focused

By Paul Matthias, National Director of Hays Education

With the onslaught of new technology and larger class sizes than ever, it’s increasingly hard to keep students focused and engaged on the lessons you’re delivering. Here we offer some simple strategies you can employ to retain attention.

Remove distractions

It might seem an obvious suggestion but you need to ensure that you’re providing and creating an environment dedicated to learning:

  • Seat students who have an adverse effect on one another's learning away from each other
  • Remind students not to get their phones out in lessons (otherwise they will be subject to the school’s behaviour policy)
  • Make sure your display boards are surrounding current topics (or those coming up) to avoid the class being distracted discussing what they’ve learnt previously.

Encourage group work

Regardless of whether they’re in primary or secondary school, students typically have bundles of energy. Avoid them wasting this energy and losing focus by pushing them to channel it positively. A good concept for this is to get students involved in group work or a project together, this helps them all learn together through an interesting medium and avoids them distracting themselves and others by fidgeting (or talking to friends rather than listening and learning).

Starter activities

Get your students into an intellectual mind-set from outset. Once they’re in the classroom, have a starter task organised for them to take part in. By doing this, rather than losing focus and talking amongst themselves as you hand out books or resources, they’re engaged in the topic straight away. You could do something simple like ask them to briefly write out what they learnt the day before, conduct a quick quiz, or try out a memory game.

‘…technology isn’t always the enemy and you can take advantage of your student’s interest in technology and turn it into a positive’

Get warmed up

Every teacher will understand the post-lunch afternoon slump, but a good way to try and overcome this lack of application is to get your students moving before the lesson starts. Whilst this may not be suitable for all ages, something as easy as a few jumping jacks behind their chairs, or even repeating some hand clapping patterns could be a good approach to get your students reinvigorated and ensure a positive classroom experience.

Preparation is the best defence

The best way to keep your classroom on-task is to nip distraction in the bud before it has a chance to start. Set a strict structure and time deadlines to tasks throughout the lesson to avoid lulls and occasions of “dead time”. If you set up a structure pattern within your teaching, your students will soon adapt to this, understand what they need to do, and ultimately see that there’s little time for diversions. This will ensure you’ll have captured their attention for the entirety of their time with you.

Mix it up

Whilst structure is a good form of keeping students engaged and on track, it can help to “mix it up” now and again. Maybe one day a week, on a Monday or Friday where children are prepositioned to be less focused, mix up your teaching style.

For example, you could take a back seat and push the students to be leaders in their own learning; pair them up and ask them to deliver a presentation to you and the class about what they’ve learnt. This engrosses them in their learning both by having them formulate a presentation to showcase that they’ve paid attention and listened earlier, as well as encouraging them to answer questions afterwards to make sure they’re listening and focusing on other’s presentations.

Technology isn’t the enemy

It can seem at times that technology in the form of phones, tablets and hand-held games is the ultimate cause of students being distracted. But interactive devices aren’t always the enemy! You can take advantage of your students’ interest in technology and turn it into a positive thing by utilising it to formulate interactive learning activities. If you’re providing a lesson through a vehicle they’re interested in, you’re much more likely to capture their focus and encourage their learning.

Find a local Education CPD session to help you increase your best practice techniques.

For more information or to discuss your employment needs in Education, please contact your local consultant.

About this author

Paul has been with Hays since 1999 and the National Director of Hays Education since 2007. He is responsible for leading experts from 40 offices across the UK who specialise in recruiting for Early Years, Primary, Secondary, SEN, Further Education and Leadership staff on a daily supply, long term supply or permanent basis. His extensive experience is invaluable to ensuring schools, colleges, nurseries, academies and MATs have access to the best possible candidates.


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