Core scripture: “Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.” (Hebrews 2:1)
Message: It was 6th hour yesterday when I realized I had lost them. Side conversations. Meaningless chatter. I was trying to teach about the makings of a persuasive essay, but I could tell the kids were done. They were still on Winter Break mode. And I found myself basically talking to about three kids who were trying to pay attention.
Ever been there before? Nah. I am sure your classes hang on your every word, don’t they? Yeah, we all have those moments when we need to reel them back in. You just need the right bait to cast out to those little fishies so they will get back to the lesson. Need some ideas? Without further ado, here are the top five ways to get your class to listen to you.
- Turn to the wall. Find a poster, book on a bookshelf, or any non-living object. Begin talking to that object as if it were listening to you and say, “Oh, Mr. White Board. I love you so much, Mr. White Board. I know my class is a little rambunctious right now, not wanting to listen, but YOU listen! Thank you for listening.” Yeah, you get the point. I am pretty sure your kids will think you have gone insane, but will they begin to listen? They have no choice not to! This method was actually suggested by Jack Berckemeyer, a middle school teaching guru, at Olathe Summer Conference years ago.
- Become a character of some sort or inherit a fun accent. Wigs are always fun if you have them. I do lots of impressions and characters for my classes, especially when teaching grammar. Yeah, not so fun to listen to the teacher talk about grammar. But when Dr. Cringeworthy gets up to talk about grammar, the kids hang on every word I say. Because Dr. Cringeworthy (aka Cringey) uses all sorts of fun lingo the kids like to use. (Want to see Cringey in action? Check him out here on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BxCGUzbHhQc)
- I love the movie Patch Adams. One of my favorite scenes is when Patch is being interviewed by a doctor at the mental hospital, and he knows the doc isn’t listening, so he starts inserting completely absurd comments between his sentences to see if the guy is paying attention. Do that! Just don’t be completely inappropriate like Patch. Say something like, “And after the test we are going to … take a field trip to Walgreens across the street. Maybe pick up a Monster Energy drink or two to wake up some students who are sleeping or not paying attention right now. Is that drool I see coming from your mouth, Joey?” Just make sure Joey has thick skin and can take a ribbing like that.
- There are always those times when the not listening thing is because the entire class is talking, right? Side conversations. Laughing. We’ve all been there. What I like to do is have a chant to bring them back. All I have to do is say, “When I say Cougar, you say pride!” Then we chant Cougar Pride, clap three times, and place our hands on our desks. Once the thump of the desks is heard in unison, the class is supposed to get quiet and listen. Does it work? Mostly, but it does take practice.
- Sing to your kids. Weird Al Yankovich style. I do this on occasion, taking a popular song and adding my own lyrics to it. Sometimes the lyrics just come to me. Other times I prepare the lyrics in advance. For example, take Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” and make it your own, singing, “Just a happy class, waiting for this TIIIIME to pass. Their listening skills still need some work. Just a teacher man, tryin’ to do the BEEEST he can! But he has to wait until he has their ears.” You start belting that baby out, and you darn well better know that they will be listening and laughing. Especially if you sing as bad as I do.
Will every one of these tactics work? No. Will it be fun for you in experimenting to find the right one that DOES work? Heck, yeah! Be patient, and have fun with it. Find the right bait that works for you and reel those kids back in.
Challenge: Pick one of the ideas off the list above and give it a try. If it backfires on you, try something else. Finding that right way to reel your students back in might be a challenge, but it is so worth it!
Prayer points: Lift up the following areas to the Lord …
- Pray that your students will transition back to school mode from Winter Break mode.
- Pray that God will use your spiritual gifts to allow students to pay attention to you.
Just for fun: Every try group projects? Watching this video makes me never want to try them ever again.
Prayer: Father, help me be creative in the way I get my students to pay attention to my lessons. Amen.