Getting and Keeping Student Attention

Getting students to focus and pay attention is a major problem in education. Fortunately, there are several strategies that a teacher can use to help students to pay attention. In this post, we will cover the following approaches for maintaining a student’s attention…

  • Indicate what is important
  • Increase intensity
  • Include novelty
  • Include movement


There are times when students are engaged but they don’t know what to do or what they are looking for. For example, a teacher may want students to summarize a paragraph. However, it is common for students to get focused on the details of the passage and never identify the main point.

To overcome this problem, a teacher may want to focus the student’s attention on questions that will guide the students to summarizing the paragraph. The questions break down the task of summarizing into individual steps. Below is an example

  1. What is the topic of the paragraph?
  2. What are some of the details the author includes in the paragraph?
  3. What is the main point of the paragraph?

The example above provides one way the task of summarizing can be broken down into several steps. This helps in focusing the students.

Raise the Intensity

Increasing the intensity has to do with the amount of stimulus a child receives while doing something. For example, if a child is struggling to write the letter ‘t’ you may have them say out loud how to write it before writing the letter. This exposes the child to new material both verbally and in a psychomotor way.

The goal of this approach is to engage more of the student’s senses in order to help them to pay attention.


This approach is self-explanatory. Students pay attention much more closely to something they have not experienced before. The only limits to this approach are the imagination.

For example, if a teacher is teaching math to small children, they may choose to use manipulatives as a new way of reinforcing the content. Another option would be to incorporate simple word problems.  There is truly no limit in this strategy.


Movement can involve the students and or the teacher moving around. When the students move it can help in breaking the monotony of having to sit still.  Movement is even beneficial for adult students. A moving teacher, on the other hand, is a moving target the students can focus upon. It is normally wise to avoid staying in one place too long when teaching children for the sake of attention and classroom management.


These ideas are some of the basics for increasing attention. Naturally, there are other ways to deal with this challenge. However, a teacher chooses to deal with this problem, they need to determine if their approach works for their students

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