By Jackie Rossa, Educational Support Consultant, Author and Creator of Thinking Spaces, Learning Central (UK) Ltd
Students are like the rest of us – they need to know that what they are doing and learning has relevance to them and their lives. There are many different ways of keeping students on track, however, a positive, respectful climate in the classroom needs to be in place if learners are to feel safe enough to work hard and purposefully.
Make topics and activities as relevant to the students’ future goals and ambitions as you can. Hopefully you will know what their aspirations are, so you can help them to make links. It does not always have to be their future careers, the topic might relate to their interests and social lives too. Doing this often helps sustain focus as they can see the point in doing it – even if it is something that they see as boring or difficult.
Keep it short and sweet. Most of us find it hard to sustain focus and concentration for long periods of time, and sometimes we need to teach students how to do this. Consider breaking topics and activities up into small segments, with clear timelines that students can only achieve if they stay focused. Vary what happens in the segments too, to sustain interest – for example, the first five minutes might be an individual writing activity, and the next segment talking to a partner etc. Try giving students some choice too e.g., you can create a flow chart or story board to show this…
Collaboration and accountability
Working with others in a structured, organised and purposeful way can be useful in helping to keep learners on track. Having to explain their thoughts to others, or work together to create something can sustain interest, although this does depend on the pairings, so choose these carefully! To make this approach work really well, it is useful to make sure that they are held accountable by you and their peers for their learning and work. For example, they might have to explain what they have created and learned to another group or pair, or seek feedback from each other on their work. Students are often more concerned about what their peers think than they are about what the teacher thinks.
Jackie Rossa will be speaking at AoC’s Teaching, Learning and Assessment Conference on 5 December.