How to encourage your students' attention to wander

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If you, the teacher, don't have your students' attention, they aren't going to learn anything from you. If that's what you want, here are some tips for you (If you DO want their attention, just reverse the tips!).

  • Find one mode of presentation and stick to it. If they see you presenting something differently, their curiosity may be aroused.
  • Try to ensure that there is always only one correct option. Choice always carries the risk of engaging attention.
  • Do not provide them with opportunities to display their creativity. They might think “Great, now I can do what  I want!” and become involved in the task.
  • Do not encourage the use of imagination. Imagination is something you can’t fully control, and so it might lead to unpredictable results. If their minds are to remain dormant, we must strive to be predictable at all times.
  • Why are computer games such an attention-magnet? Because they are interactive; they allow you to make a difference to the outcome. The moral is: never allow a student’s contribution to make a difference to the outcome!
  • Everyone likes a challenge from time to time. That’s why quiz shows are popular. Be warned: challenge may interfere with your student’s daydreaming.
  • Avoid engaging volatile feelings like tension, excitement and humour. These would only disturb the dust which has settled on their weary minds and distract them from the contemplation of the graffiti on their desks.
  • Who pays attention to the lottery results? People with a vested interest of course; people who’ve got a ticket. Never give the student opportunities to invest anything important to themselves in a lesson.
  • Do not allow them to express anything personal in a language class. They may come to believe that they have some kind of stake in the language; that they “own” it in some way. We wouldn’t want that (would we?)


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