My mantra is simple, "Where attention goes, energy flows". Without a student's authentic attention, you are basically swimming with no arms or legs in a choppy ocean of learning. Therefore, garnering student's attention in the first few minutes of class as they walk in is perhaps your most important job as an educator. Setting the stage for your lesson and doing everything you can to be sure kids are engaged is not as difficult as one would imagine but it does take effort. Here are three tips to consider as you attempt to tune in students to your learning frequency.
1. Kids come to class with a million things rattling around in their brain. The hallway is a test tube of attention virsuses which seek to invade students consiousness and disrupt your class. With that in mind, the one thing you can most definately control in regards to their attention is sound, I am talking about music. Having kids walk into an empty, quiet class is an invitation to disruption. So choose music which can not only interupt their consiousness but is related to your teaching concept. On test days I would pipe in "Rocky" and as a history teacher it was easy to find music associated with concepts I was teaching; Woody Guthrie for the Great Depression, "Over There" for WWI but if you teach math, science, art, ELA, ELL or anything else, use your creativity to support your lesson. Whatever you do, don't give up one of the most powerful forms of attention engagement.....sound!
2. Your visual. In my travels as an Instructional Technology Coach is a district of 35k students, i see a lot of classrooms. In the vast majority of classrooms I visit, I see pretty much the same thing on the wall when class begins; a scientifically written objective with either text directions on a white smartboard or a visual of a content specific item; the Scientific table of elements or a picture of George Washington. Chances are students rarely pay attention to what they see on your wall when they walk in, so make them. Find powerful visuals that will not only knock their socks off but will also facilitate your learning objective. I use Skitch on my MAC ( http://mac.filehorse.com/download-skitch/ ) but with a PC you can use ( http://jing.en.lo4d.com/ ), either way, not only can you rip a quick image but you can manipulate it to give student direction. How could a kid not pay attention to this?
3. Be a #TeacherNinja at your door. We have all been told how important it is to be by your door when the kids walk in. This is your chance to set the vibe, so don't just stand there and hand out papers, be an attention wand. Be a precense, give high fives, greet each kid and be truly excited they showed up! I have said it before, kids can smell realdom and they will know whether or not you want to be there. I used to write WIN on my knucks and fist bump the kids as they walked in, or dance in the hall, I was even known to at times crouch in the corner of the hall and scare kids as they turned the corner. I may have even made a few pig masks in my day just to wear it at my door. What better way to disrupt a kid's brain and hijack their attention than to be standing at the door giving kids fist bumps as a pigman?
My mission was not to be a joker but to make a connection, with each and every kid and to do it for one purpose and one purpose only; to get them to voluntarily give over their attention to me in the classroom.
It's no joke, where attention goes, energy does flow and if you are not trying to capture that attention, it is likely their energy is not going into your carefully constructed learning objective.
Oh. And remember, "Where attention goes, energy flows".