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Two Routines to Keep Students Focused and On Task

Found In: differentiated learning instruction, routines & procedures, staying on task

Here are suggestions for keeping students focused and on-task during classroom instruction.

Post and refer to the goals of each day’s lesson. When students know what is to be covered and how their understanding of the material is to be assessed, they are more likely to focus.

It is also helpful to split the time up between instruction and student participation. For example, you might talk about/demonstrate one specific skill for 10 minutes (or less if they are not currently focusing for that long) and then allow students to practice using the skill alone or with partners for 10 minutes before talking about the next skill. When students know they are going to learn specific skills in a given period and that instruction and practice time is broken into segments, they are often able to focus better.

My personal math experience as a student has been that I generally was lost about 15 minutes into the lesson and couldn’t remember how to do step one by the time the instructor reached stepped three. When I took a remedial algebra class in college, I was fortunate to have an instructor who broke the process down and had us practice before moving on, and I finally understood that I am not incapable of learning math.

Generally classes have a mix of ability levels, and I have used this method in mixed-level English classes. Students who are allowed to go ahead and work will not spend their time visiting until they are done, and in my experience they will visit quietly in their group when done if given this privilege because they don’t want to sit through instruction they don’t need.


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