8th Grade: Strategies to Keep Students Attentive During Class

8th Grade: Strategies to Keep Students Attentive During Class
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The Editorial Team October 16, 2012

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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:

  • Developmental Changes: The adolescent brain is growing and the individual is often developing intellectual, social and emotional characteristics.
  • Physical Development: Eighth grade students are developing physically, sexually and emotionally and are often experiencing quickly changing hormone levels.
  • Social Development: Adolescents often are building their adult personalities, basic values and attitudes during 8th grade. They also are seeking autonomy and independence, while also reaching out to peers for friendship and camaraderie.

Here are some strategies you can use to keep your 8th grade students’ attention while teaching them important course material.

Begin with a warm-up

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.

Interact with students

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.

Break down objectives

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.

Design lessons targeting a sensory motor experience

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 random questions

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.

Develop an exit assignment

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.

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