I’ve been working with teenagers for over 5 years now. Accepting their attention divides between my content, Fortnite, and the latest Instagram Filter is just a fact of life. When I thought I had it figured out, pandemic happened.
In this new setting something is clear. Attention is a rare gift.
1. Start by stating the value
Long be gone the old “what, when, where, how, why”. Why would anyone care about a piece of information that means nothing to its receiver? I cannot care about something which doesn’t relate to my present (or desired future) situation.
Always start with the “why”. Why this lesson will be useful for you? How does it connect to what you already know? If there is interest, there will be attention.
2. Be clear with your expectations
It’s easier to endure anything when we know what we got outselves into. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not implying your lesson is something to be “endured”. But bare with me. How do you feel when you’re summoned to a meeting without an agenda? Uneasy, to say the least.
Be upfront with your students and prepare them for what to expect everytime your class start. Have a clear agenda of topics within your big knowledge unit. I wouldn’t recommend handing this down at the beginning of the course. Students tend to believe they know “which are the really important lessons” and could end up missing something as important as ethical implications or social impact.
3. Keep the interaction human
Address your students by name as often as possible. Use their names for examples, interweave them in your speech, keep them connected. Stop trying to ignore the situation and incorporate it as a fact. Create short pauses for moving together. Head, arms, back. Show you care and create group memories.
4. Dynamic participation
Your students are on TikTok? Checking their feeds? Well, those could be your tools. Create rapid dynamics in which your students share a bit of what they’re learning, ask them to create a meme related to the topic, create a quickly competition.
Note: It says “could” never should. Remember to read and question everything there is about the politics and norms on your institution.
5. Always recap
Help your students identify and categorize the information they’ve received. Use power words such as: now you know how to, you’ve learned to, now you can; just by using them it’s clear for your students the difference in their state at the beginning versus the end of the lesson. Or it can help them identify what they should know by now.