Creating classroom fireworks to get students saying WOW!

Engagement is still king in the classroom. If students aren't paying attention, they might as well not be there. (Public domain image via Pixabay.com)

Engagement is still king in the classroom. If students aren’t paying attention, they might as well not be there. (Public domain image via Pixabay.com)

Attention economy is a term that many in business are paying attention to.

There’s lots of noise in media and in our everyday lives. Organizations are doing whatever they can to get people’s attention.

Social media marketing. Billboards. Emails. Advertising in unique locations. (The ads they stick above urinals in the men’s room are a genius move, in my opinion!)

The attention economy trickles down to the classroom. Our students are constantly bombarded with attempts to grab their attention.

Because of that, it’s harder for them than ever to stay focused on a single subject.

We have to be more committed to engagement in the classroom than ever before.

Engagement is king in the classroom, and we can’t be above doing whatever we can to keep our students’ attention.

Gone are the days when we tell students, “Here is your information. Go do your work.”

That’s the easy way. If you don’t get results, it’s easy to say, “Well, I gave them what they needed. They just didn’t work hard enough.”

If we want results – if we want our students to see results – we have to strive for engagement.

Students mentally check out for a variety of reasons. Among them:

  • They’re bored.
  • They’re frustrated.
  • They have personality conflicts with a teacher.
  • They have other issues in their lives interfering with school.

If students mentally check out in class, they might as well not be there.

When I started teaching, my first reaction when students were disengaged was, “What’s wrong with them?”

Now, my first reaction is, “What’s wrong with me and my lesson?”

My favorite ways to boost classroom engagement is to connect students with fascinating content-related material. I love using the DITCH model (different, innovative, tech-laden, creative, hands-on) to come up with new ideas. I also like tying the engagement strategies from “Teach Like a PIRATE” to free tech tools (like the ideas in this free ebook).

However, I’m not below showing a quick funny video to engage students. If that’s what it takes to bring their attention back, I’ll sacrifice two minutes of class (and another minute of laughter and discussion) to have their attention.

It’s not wasting time. In many cases, it’s the price of getting them back. Plus, the laughter releases chemicals into the bloodstream that command our attention.

That’s because, whether we like it or not, we’re participants in the attention economy in education. Attention is a commodity. There’s a finite amount of it, and we’ve got to take advantage of what we get. Other times, we’ve got to pay in classroom time to get that attention back.

Without engaging lessons, it doesn’t matter how great your lesson plan is. It doesn’t matter how well your task is designed or how well you deliver a presentation.

We can’t be above some classroom fireworks to get kids to say “wow.”

[reminder]How important is engagement in the classroom? What are your best ideas for keeping kids engaged?[/reminder]

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