In my last article, I covered the first 5 of 11 proven ways to prevent boredom in the classroom. If you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, just click here. In this article, I will cover the last 6 items.
I would like to mention that whether you are in the classroom or at home, most of these concepts work really well. Bored kids are bored kids, regardless of where they are at. So for anyone reading that has a bored child problem at home or elsewhere, hopefully you will find some good inspiration here!
For the sake of review, here is the whole list of ways to prevent boredom in the classroom:
- Keep things moving.
- Ask your students questions regarding things outside of class.
- Be careful to be aware of when students are attempting to engage you.
- Reward their good behavior frequently.
- Give the students paper to take notes or draw for the times that they have to sit and listen.
- Make sure your directions are specific and engaging.
- Watch their body language for cues as to how they are feeling.
- Keep things new.
- Make sure the conversation goes two ways.
- Keep things simple so they don’t get bogged down in the details, especially for new concepts.
- Change up the routine. (especially when least expecting it!!!)
So now let’s go ahead and look at the last 6 ways to prevent boredom in the classroom.
Table of Contents
6. Make Sure Your Directions are Specific and Engaging
There isn’t much that will get kids discouraged about their schoolwork than unclear directions that leave them unable to do their work. And sometimes as teachers we get so wrapped up in getting things done that we don’t realize the directions that we understand perfectly don’t even seem like English to them.
When kids get discouraged about their work, they quickly become bored. They are no longer motivated to do their work. So then they need something else to fix their minds on. And in a matter of moments you have lost their attention.
It is pretty easy to combat this problem in the classroom. First, gauge the students’ expressions as you are explaining to them. If they are tracking with you, they will show it on their faces. If they are not, it will be pretty easy to see either confusion or zoned out looks coming right back at you.
Second, encourage questions at all times. I know this can be hard sometimes. But in the long run, if your students know they can ask you anything they are struggling with, they will be so much more eager to put themselves out there for the sake of learning.
Third, engage them to make sure they do understand what you are saying. You will want to especially make sure you are reaching those students that are generally unsure of what they are doing in that subject. But be careful that they don’t perceive you are being condescending.
Finally, take a stroll around the classroom as they are doing the work. Just give a cursory check to make sure everyone has it down. Encourage as necessary.
7. Watch Their Body Language for Cues as to How They are Feeling
Another great way to prevent boredom in the classroom is to watch your students’ body language. I touched on this just a little bit in point number 6. But you can use it in all of your communication with your students–alone or in groups, and in any subject or type of communication that you are imparting to them.
What the Studies Say
While I was not successful in finding definitive studies on verbal vs. nonverbal communication, I did see several articles that said only 7% of communication is verbal, while 93% is nonverbal, or body language.
Science of People has an article that describes all of the different forms of body language. Then it gives you a quiz to complete to see how adept you are at deciphering body language. I took it myself and got just one wrong. Go ahead and take it and tell me how you did in the comments!
What Does This Look Like in Your Classroom?
What this means for you in your classroom (or with your kids at home, wink) is that you see and take to heart the expressions on their face when they are saying one thing and their body is saying another. Or in the case where they are not saying anything and you need to rely on their body language alone.
It means noticing how their body is moving and what those significant movements mean in connection to what they are thinking. And it also means looking at the things they wear, bring to school with them, and surround themselves with and seeing how it reflects their personality and things that they hold dear in their lives. Or on the flip side, look at how those things tell you about what they don’t like.
These things are hard to pick up when you are starting fresh with a new class in a new school year. But it won’t take very long to figure these things out once you start to get to know your students. And as you get to know your students, and show them that you care enough to know how they think and feel, you will find them becoming much more verbal with you.
They are building trust in you because they see how much you are willing to invest in them to provide them with a safe place at school.
8. Keep Things New
This sounds fun and exciting, and I think just about every teacher plans for their class to be like this. It certainly seems like it would prevent boredom in the classroom if you were to always have new items on the agenda. But as the year starts to get on, it gets harder to keep things fresh and new. Time becomes an issue. And it’s hard to find new ideas when you have to start from scratch. Taking time to research an idea, then finding the resources needed to implement that idea can take way more time than you have in an evening or weekend.
It definitely helps to have a couple of go-to resources to help you pick up some quick new ideas based on what you are working on with your students.
You could make a list of the best two or three resources you have for each subject you are teaching. Then you can find those new ideas in a fraction of the time that it would take if you were starting from scratch.
You may also want to keep a list of stores or websites that carry the majority of the supplies or resources that you generally buy. Streamlining these processes will help save you so much more time!
For the amount of time that it does take you, though, I promise that your students will be so grateful. And they will actually enjoy coming to school to see what you have in store for them for the day, knowing that you planned the school day with them in mind.
9. Make Sure the Conversation Goes Two Ways
I’m sure we’ve all been there. You are in a conversation and the person talking doesn’t stop long enough to let you say a single word. Before long, you are just zoned out because you realize you aren’t even part of the conversation. You are just there to hear whatever they want to tell you.
Opportunities to Relate
Now let’s apply that to the classroom. As a teacher, you really do have something that you need to tell the students. And the majority of the time it is something that they don’t already know. But that doesn’t mean they can’t contribute to the conversation or you can’t involve them.
In fact, using the knowledge that they already do have is a perfect way to get them involved in the conversation. Every subject in the world is related to some other part of life. And every living person has experience in life that can reflect back to what you are trying to teach.
Using these points of relationship allows the student to understand the train of thought you are trying to communicate. And it gives them a tangible reinforcement to the lesson.
If they can tie the lesson you are teaching to a particular experience they have had or some fact that they already know, you are giving them a great way to help remember those new facts.
They will retain information much better when they have something in their world to tie it to. And boredom is immediately eliminated because they will immediately be interested in what you have to say when they realize that it hits them where they live.
And as an extra bonus, they will also love that you involved them in the learning conversation. They will appreciate the fact that you care enough to get to know them on more than just a “student-in-the-classroom” level.
10. Teach Incrementally so the Students Don’t Get Bogged Down in the Details
I realize I am probably stating the obvious here, but it does need at least a little bit of attention. I know it is a good reminder for me. Sometimes it is so easy to have a one-track mind when trying to teach a certain concept. I can get so driven to get a whole lot done in that day and I don’t realize I should have stopped 3 points ago.
The Biggest Successes are the Small Ones
So I guess the theme of this point would be to quit while I am ahead. Rather than trying to drive home more points because they grasped the first few so well, I learned that it is far better to reward them with a job well done (or a lesson well learned).
So maybe instead of trying to forge ahead for the rest of the lesson, we will play a quick game that is related to the material. (I keep a little index card box of quick game suggestions just for these types of moments.) Or just break out in a classroom discussion on life as it relates to the theme of the day.
The kids will enjoy the mental breaktime. And they will love once again that routine was broken just enough to let life into the classroom. The monotony is gone as well as the boredom! And because the game is somehow related to the lesson, you also reinforced what the students learned!
Bonus Idea: Game Idea Box
Let me get back to the index card box I just referenced. This little classroom treasure allows me to switch things up on the spur of the moment. I just grab the box and quickly pick something that seems pertinent to the lesson in some way. Sometimes it can be a stretch, but the kids love those little “stretches” almost as much as perfect theming.
Anyway, after the students see you get that box out a couple of times, they will come to know exactly what is coming up and always show excitement for what is about to happen.
And something I found made them even more excited is to select two or three cards and let them vote on the game/activity to play. Once again, their opinion matters which earns you more points on the trust/relatability scale!
Oh, and for the non-teacher types who are reading this or teachers that go home to their own kids at night: this box works just as well in the home as it does in the classroom!
I may try to write an article soon describing how I put the box together and the kinds of games and activities that worked well for me. Then y’all can do your own and add your own tweaks without having to reinvent the wheel!
11. Change up the Classroom Routine (Especially When They are Least Expecting It!)
So I realize that I tend to be a really spontaneous person. It’s fun! And that is kind of the exact point I am trying to make here. When you can see the glazed look starting to appear on multiple faces staring back at you, you have already lost your chances of productivity. Driving the lesson home at this point is kind of a moot point. So what can you do?
Change up the routine! I already spoke in the last point about my little game box. But you can also implement this into your lesson planning. Over time, it will be easy for you to foresee when things are going to get monotonous for the kids. But you know you have to teach those concepts!
So one of the things I learned is to always have some change up in the routine immediately following those difficult class times. And when I can plan it out beforehand because I can see it coming, I can plan even better things.
One example of this would be trying to get through a couple of really dry chapters of the reading book we are working on. There may have been little in that material to apply to the students’ lives or knowledge base. So I try to get through that material as fast as possible. And then with the extra time I try to do something that brings them back to “where they live.” One fun activity that we can do is the Six Degrees of Separation. (Here is some information about this on Wikipedia if you are not familiar with it already.) It shows them that the lesson I was trying to teach wasn’t really so far away from them after all.
Another fun way to change up the routine is to have a treasure hunt around your facility. Use several items that you can tie back to that difficult lesson. Then hide them in various places. Try to do it outside of your classroom so that it will be even more of a change from routine. This is something that you will need to plan ahead so that you can have the items and clue cards written ahead of time. But when you surprise the students, it will be totally spontaneous and fun for them!
So this is my list of 11 ways to prevent boredom in the classroom. But honestly, I could have come up with probably 100 or more! And I know you all have ideas too. Please feel free to share them so we can all make our classrooms a better place.
And while I wrote this with a classroom in mind, it works perfectly well in a homeschool setting (maybe even better because of more freedoms to get around places and schedules!). It also works well in a regular home setting when kids are not cooperating with the normal home routine.
Let me know how these things have worked for you!
To go back to part one of this article, click here.
If you would like to read more about encouragement in the classroom, you can check out my article here.
And if you would like more information on differentiation in the classroom, you can check out my article on that here.