Helping Students Focus when the Sunshine is Calling 

The warmer weather is rolling in and the attention spans are waning.  I include my own attention span in this assessment of the situation.  The severity of things struck me between the eyes this balmy and golden Friday when my period 4 class looked like this for the vast majority of the period:

I can relate; it’s been a long winter and the cabin fever was real.  Now we have bright green baby leaves sprouting and everything smells alive again.  How is anyone supposed to resist the urge to toss the papers in the air and take off to the nearest beach?

During my surprise period 4 free time, I spent some time reflecting on this question and also talking to a few of my wise veteran teacher friends.  We came up with a few ideas as to how to help squeeze the last drops of available productivity out of the remaining school year without making our students want to jump out the windows any more than they already do.

  • Shake things up!  If the weather and summer funtivities are calling their names, try to call their attention back to the classroom by breaking your normal routine.  Sometimes a new assignment or a different seating arrangement is enough to help students resist hitting that end-of-the-year wall.
  • Use an assignment or a project that takes advantage of a new space.  Have class in the computer lab or in the library.  This is another way of breaking routine and redirecting the already-wandering attention spans.
  • Consider decreasing the homework load.  Allowing students to unwind and unleash some summer crazy at home can sometimes help them return to the classroom more prepared to engage and focus.
  • Try to find a way to get students outside for some or all of a class period even if it is slightly less productive in that moment.  Whether it be for a work session in the sun or a lesson that incorporates the outdoors, students usually recognize and appreciate your efforts to work with their summer jitters.
  • Capitalize on incentives.  If students need a little something extra to motivate them, try setting rewards for accomplishing tasks or reaching goals.  Incentives can include homework passes, snacks, extra points, or maybe even some time outside.
  • Set the tone with your own attitude during the final stretch!  As tired and battle-weary as you are, continue pushing for creativity, dedication, and passion in your classroom.  Be motivated with your own timelines and efficiency so that you can ask students to do the same.

These are just a few ideas, but if anyone has any additional contributions, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that I need them!  And I would venture to say everyone else does too 🙂

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5 thoughts on “Helping Students Focus when the Sunshine is Calling 

  1. Anne says:

    These are great ideas, Danah! I will say, I’ve heard from other teachers that outdoor classes sound like a good idea until you’re outside, then it seems like students either 1. don’t pay attention or 2. complain about the outdoors haha. But I think if you make sure they have an engaging activity (and not just let’s take notes/ discussion outside) then this can be overcome! =)

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  2. Danah Rae says:

    Thanks, Anne. I’ve taken a few classes outside and it’s definitely been a mixed bag. It really depends on the individual class. I think that’s a judgment call. Class size also definitely impacts this; taking 30 kids, half of whom are on IEPs, is probably not going to end well. But, in my limited experience, sometimes there’s also a lot of benefit in releasing some control, trusting the kids a little, and letting them know that is what you’re doing. Then, if it ends with a lack of productivity, they know it’s because they didn’t live up to your trust in them in that situation. I’ve seen some groups of kids really rise to the personal challenge in that scenario.

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  3. Danah Rae says:

    And, to some degree, class outside is almost never as productive as class inside, but I think that the lack of productivity is sometimes worth it just to give everybody a little break and some sunshine. But, again, very situationally based! These are just some ideas that a few different teachers and I were tossing around. You’d have to pick and choose the ones that were a good fit for your kids!

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  4. Anne says:

    I totally agree. Every class is going to handle it differently. But I love how you make it clear that its THEIR responsibility, so if it turns out it can’t be repeated, they know its how they chose to handle the situation, not something you are doing! Thanks, Danah!

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