Keeping an 8th grade student’s attention for five minutes is hard enough, imagine doing so for a whole class period. However, students won’t learn effectively if you can’t find a way to keep them interested and attentive throughout the entire class.
More than their younger or older counterparts, 8th grade students often have a particularly hard time focusing on lesson plans because many of them are experiencing physical, intellectual and emotional changes related to adolescence. In their report, “Young Adolescent Learner,” former educators Fran Salyers and Carol McKee document many of the changes 8th graders may experience which can affect their attention spans in school.
Among them are:
Here are some strategies you can use to keep your 8th grade students’ attention while teaching them important course material.
A warm-up period allows your pupils to re-examine what was learned the day before and get ready to learn new material. What was learned yesterday is many times connected to what you are teaching today, so this strategy improves student understanding as well. During this warm-up period, let your class brainstorm, think aloud, discuss recent material and predict the content of the next lesson.
Explain a concept to your class using a problem or scenario to get them interested in the lesson. Ask students to explain what you have just taught by describing concepts in their own words. When students don’t understand material, they stop paying attention, so allow them to ask questions and clear any misconceptions they have about the lesson.
When you teach, break the bigger lesson into small steps. You can do this by creating several problems or questions relating to each concept you cover. Talking or lecturing for long periods of time can cause your students to lose interest in the material. Instead, consider doing a brief lecture in the context of a problem, followed by a handful of related problems to work on as a class, then let students try on their own. Use facilitative teaching techniques by asking leading questions that help generate understanding.
Designing lessons that consider sensory motor experiences always keeps 8th grade students interested. Introduce touch, smell, emotion and music into your lessons and your class will stay attentive. Adding a sensory motor experience to help your students solve problems and answer questions, not only focuses their learning, but also helps to build the complex neuron connections within the brain.
Ask questions about the lesson as you teach, and call on students who have a difficult time focusing. Adding the element of surprise to a lesson keeps students attentive, and their minds are stimulated, trying to anticipate the answers to your questions. Maybe even try starting a fun game of popcorn, where students can call on each other during the lesson.
For the final 10 or 20 minutes of class, ask students to complete a small assignment mirroring your lesson. Allowing students to take control and begin working on their own involves them in the learning process. Make sure that the assignment is rigorous but not overwhelming, and monitor your pupils as they complete the assignment to keep everyone on task. To ensure that all students give the assignment their best effort and full attention, consider grading it.