7 tips to connect with students and improve attention span
November 14, 2022
4 min read
‘Humans now have an attention span shorter than a goldfish’ was splattered across headlines for years. You probably even believe it as you absentmindedly doom scroll through Instagram while you are supposed to be working — but turns out it isn’t really based on solid scientific evidence. Forget grown-ups, considering we managed to make kids focus on their studies in online classrooms for two years during the Covid-19 pandemic, and coaching classes managed to hold the attention span of everyone from pre-teens to angsty teenagers to up-skilling adults, it’s safe to swim away from the fish rumour.
Over the course of the two years, dealing with problems like stay-at-home anxiety, kids, teens, and well, grown-ups, are having trouble focusing and staying on task — it has taken a toll on attention span. In this new post Covid-19 world — offline and online classrooms thrive simultaneously. Offline schools have started using data management systems like Classcard to take certain parts of their businesses online. Coaching classes that had taken a hit during the pandemic are slowly picking up steam.
But in order for students to make the most of what’s on offer, whether you’re a teacher in an online classroom, or offline, it’s in the educator’s interest to improve student connectedness, and help hone their attention spans. Here’s seven tips to improve both attention span and student connectedness-
According to this technique developed by Francesco Cirillo, you divide the workday into 25-minute chunks — with five-minute breaks between each. These time intervals are called a ‘Pomodoro’, and after four Pomodoros, you earn a longer break of 20 minutes. Knowing there is an end in sight can make paying attention seem less annoying.
The theory is that it works for kids/learners for a few reasons: you’re only asking them to hold their attention span for short periods at a time; you’re instilling a sense of urgency in terms of when the task has to be completed, instead of giving them endless time and, research suggests that these short breaks help consolidate learning.
Also, giving an incentive of a break not only makes people work harder and quicker, it makes them appreciate the teacher, hence increasing student connectedness.
Why does your student remember every character in Game of Thrones, but struggles to remember history lessons? Because GOT is narrated like a story. In an article on Opencolleges.edu, the University of Georgia’s Diann Moorman, PhD says, “Storytelling is an enduring form of communication”.
Her latest study demonstrates that studies recall information tied to storytelling better than material presented without storytelling. Stories and images even tend to attract reticent learners and focusing on engaging tales will help improve attention span.
Another way to increase teacher-student connectedness is to tell stories using real people, or people that matter to the student — increasing relatability by using personal anecdotes to explain study concepts in both, your online classroom, and offline.
This one may seem obvious, but how many teachers actually make their students take on crosswords, and sudokus when they have 10,000 word essays to worry about?
But the truth is, brain training games can help develop your working and short-term memory, as well as your processing and problem-solving skills. Even a task like colouring can help improve attention span in younger and older kids (and often, in adults!). So whether you’re a private school teacher for teenagers or a coaching classes tutor for adults, be the cool teacher who makes their student take on the day’s Wordle to kick start their brain into work mode.
Young kids, teenagers, adults who are back in online classes trying to upskill — everyone’s attention span takes a hit once in a while.
Focus exercises can get the ball rolling, and can easily be done in online classrooms and offline as they take all of 5-10 minutes at the most. For example, practice concentration meditation exercises, like mindful breathing; or play a counting game where you skip numbers as you count down from 100; or count words on a page; or concentrate on slowly opening and closing your fist for five minutes.
While these seem easy as pie, students will know when actually doing them, and improving focus is a tough task — and it’ll take days of practice before these exercises will make you feel like they’ve improved attention spans.
There’s a reason Type A’s are obsessed with to-do lists. They make sure you know where to start when you have seemingly endless tasks and ensure you actually get stuff done. Plus, the satisfaction of ticking something off your list is unparalleled.
Lists make students feel in control and help break down complex tasks. Most importantly, they help them stay on task so they know what to do next, instead of them losing focus.
Also, encourage them to design a not-to-do list: and make sure to put things like checking Instagram, Facebook, and the like on it, so every time they’re inclined to go rogue, this list will keep them in line.
One, we all know it’s hard establish a relationship with students — whether it’s tiny little learners, angsty teens or adults going back to school. An effective way to increase teacher-student connectedness is by changing how you function — both in an online classroom, and offline.
To change things up, you can flip the classroom. Here, students are introduced to content at home and practice working through it at school — unlike originally where kids are taught at school, and forced to do homework at home. It gives the student more autonomy, it’s more collaborative, and helps to create engaging lessons and maximize student participation.
Another way to improve relationships is to allow for open communication, both inside and outside the classroom; in this way, you are encouraging them to voice what they feel and be more expressive. Make sure to give them feedback on their work, behaviour and more — you can find out more about improving teacher – student connectedness here.
Whether you’re a local coaching class, or a part of a prestige school chain, if you’ve been using the online classroom for a while, congrats, you’ve made it easier for students to access content, study from anywhere, and just generally be more flexible. If you haven’t, then join forces with apps like Classcard that help you take parts of your business online.
With features like online booking, zoom integrations for online classrooms and teaching, online scheduling and attendance, and a cloud for your data, they help you communicate more effectively with students who are online 24/7 as it is.