15 Strategies To Help Students Focus

I’ve used these strategies on a regular basis and they help with overall classroom management, behavior, and student’s engagement with the lesson.  As I was writing this post, I also read these two articles, Teaching Students with ADHD and Helping the Student with ADHD in the Classroom.  While these articles are ADHD specific, these strategies will help any student!  Even your most on task student will benefit from these ideas.

Strategies for your lessons…

  1. Get materials, for you and the students, ready at the beginning of the lesson.  If you ask the class to get things in the middle of a lesson it seems to take twice as long and derails their focus.  
  2. Make is obvious when you are starting a lesson.  Grab their attention from wherever it was before.  It could be ringing a bell or pressing a button that makes a funny sound, whatever it is, keep it the same for each lesson.  Consistency is key.  
  3. Write the agenda of the lesson on the board so they can anticipate what is coming and find their place in the lesson when they get lost.  Keep your agenda short and sweet by only have 3-5 things listed and keep each agenda item to 1-5 words. 
  4. Use visual directions and picture examples as much as possible.  Most kids like books with pictures because it helps them comprehend the text.  The same idea applies to teaching.
  5. Break up long assignments.  Try to keep tasks no longer than 5-10 minutes in the elementary classroom.  Even if they are doing a longer project, such as writing a paper, have them write a few sentences, then give a short break.
  6. Use simple directions and only give 1 or 2 directions at a time.  Write all directions on the board, very simply, in 2-5 word sentences.
  7. Build natural breaks in the lesson.  Think of learning like running.  When you run 2 miles, it’s nice to walk a lap and catch your breath.  When you have been learning nonstop for 10-15 minutes, it’s nice to give your brain a lap.  Dancing, stretches and telling jokes are some ideas.  There are lots of “brain break” ideas out there.  Find some you like and try them out!
  8. Use graphic organizers to “chunk” information.  If students are given paragraphs of information, it is difficult for their minds to sort and create meaning from it.  Organize it in a graphic organizer so their minds can connect it.
  9. Provide immediate feedback as much as possible!  This is why reward systems and token economies are frequently suggested as good strategies because they provide immediate feedback.  Unfortunately these systems are often hard to do in the middle of teaching.  Instead, try to use immediate feedback naturally throughout your lesson.  For example, in a small group setting, every time a student answers a question on their paper, check it!  This is incredibly motivating to all students.
  10. Teacher directed time is better.  Independent work can be tricky unless there are very simple and clear expectations, with frequent breaks, check-ins from the teacher, and no other distractions around.  When students are doing work independently, you should be providing support and feedback unless it is material they have already mastered.
  11. At the end of the lesson, state the objective simply and clearly. “If you heard nothing else today, hear this – SAY IT LOUD WITH HAND MOTIONS AND WRITE IT ON THE BOARD” and have students repeat it back to you.


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You can download a copy of this graphic here!

Strategies for your classroom…

  1. Create quiet work areas during independent time.  It is easier for students to complete independent work if the entire room is calm and quiet. 
  2. Use nonverbal cues.  Instead of always redirecting students by saying their names, use a tap on the shoulder or something that you’ve agreed upon with the student.  It may be different for different students depending on what they prefer.
  3. Allow students to use fidgets.  Fidgets may not be appropriate for all students so use.  Here are 5 fidgets that work well in any classroom.
  4. Set aside time each day to organize.  This could include writing down the homework in their planners, making sure their papers are all put away in the correct folders, and putting their materials away so they can find them the next time.

I hope you have been able to find a few ideas that will work for you!  Happy teaching!