3 quick ways to engage and focus your students

One day, I was in the middle of a lesson and I noticed that my students were fidgety and off task. I knew that they needed more movement integrated into the day to keep them focused and excited about learning. So I decided to make the necessary changes to my classroom routines.

Being a special education teacher and a kinesthetic learner, I understand the importance of allowing movement throughout the day. None of us should be expected to stay still for two hours straight, let alone a seven year old!  Below are some of the tools and strategies I use for movement breaks that get the wiggles out while letting learning in!

  1. Warm up their brains after long breaks
    There is a wonderful new program called Go Noodle. On this site students can rock out to kid’s Zumba, dance with a funny animated chicken, or engage in great brain exercises. Each exercise is around 3 minutes and the students earn ClassDojo points and get to watch their avatar get stronger with each goal met.
  2. Integrate movement into a lesson
    As an example, spelling can easily become a stagnant weekly endeavor — but it doesn’t have to be repetitive and predictable. Give your students a letter written on a piece of paper, call out the spelling words, and have the students who have the necessary letters go up to the front and correctly spell the words as a team. It keeps the students focused and allows them to move. I also like to hand out index cards with spelling words and corresponding cards with the definitions. I then have the students walk around the room until they find their partner with the matching word/definition.
  3. Add movement to your call and response
    Getting everyone’s attention can be a challenge, but it can also be turned into a game. Asking the class to “freeze like the Statue of Liberty” or to “freeze like Frankenstein” is far more engaging then telling everyone to be quiet.

If the students are working and responding well, this is also a moment to point out and reward. In my class I say, “More ClassDojo points for you,” and they’ll respond with, “Staying on task, it’s what we do!” The students get validation of a job well done and the reinforcement to keep up the good work.

Keeping students actively engaged and allowing them the movement they need during the day decreases distractions and increases productivity, which makes for a more rewarding and fulfilling day for both the students and the teacher.

Drawing credit: Paul Callis, a special needs teacher in Oakland, CA. Follow his daily, whiteboard drawings on Instagram (@48birdo48)

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