I had hall way duty the other day just after lunch and I noticed how many kids were plugged in to their mobile devices listening to music. I often hear students tell me, they can't study without the music playing but if you watch them carefully, they spend more time changing songs and texting then they do actually studying.
An unfortunate side effect of this is that student attention span is dropping and its getting harder to hold their attention. So what can we do as teachers to create a lesson and a classroom that works with a short attention span and a desire to move to something else.
This Power Point has some wonderful information on creating a pacing that will keep students interested in class. I like the first real comment in the presentation where the author states that "good pacing creates an illusion of speed." I've had good lessons like that. So with good pacing, students do not have time to watch the clock.
One suggestion to create good pacing is to have several different activities designed to teach a single objective. It is the flow from one activity to another that creates the pacing. In addition to changing activities, one might consider changing the presentation, or the way students are grouped to help change the pace.
When you hold student attention, you help the student learn. Unfortunately, there is no single answer for the question "How long is a student's attention span?" There are lots of different answers but I've discovered it all depends on the students you have so you have to decide the length based on them.
Another suggestion is to break up the lecture into micro lectures or chunks. In other words, these are very small focused chunks of direct instruction that last mere minutes and are followed by a student activity. This method of delivery makes the pace feel brisk rather than slow.
In addition, the multiple activities allow for multiple starts and finishes which capitalizes on the idea that students learn best at the beginning of the lesson, followed by the end. Its in the middle they don't learn as much. It is also suggested that breaks between activities are made crystal clear so students use these as markers to help keep tract of the material. These breaks are like bookends because the segments are clearly marked.
Check this out for more information and details. Although it is a general presentation, it is easily applied to math.
Edutopia has a nice short article on pacing which adds to the above.
1. Create a sense of urgency so they know it is important. The author recommends a timer to help students know they must get it done within this segment of time.
2. Make the goals clear so students know exactly what they are supposed to be learning.
3. Create smooth transitions so the lesson has few interruptions and everything is planned a head. Have the next activity set up and ready to go so there is little or no dead time.
4. Be sure materials are prepped for the next activity. Ask yourself if the next activity requires individual paper or could it be done on the screen?
5. Present instructions visually so they are written down on the board or screen.
6. Check for understanding and adjust accordingly.
7. Select the most effective method of presenting the material
I like the information I found in both articles. I know I need to do it but I always seem to run out of time. I think I'm going to have to really sit down and do some serious planning this summer so I have better lessons prepared for the fall. I plan to write a bit more on this tomorrow.