• Dilli

6 tips to refocus rowdy classes

As a new teacher, I always wondered why my voice wasn't being heard, and why so many students forgot or failed to understand what I had just told them. I worried when my students got easily distracted and felt that their low attention span was somehow my fault.

Gone are the days where corporal punishment is the norm, or where teachers are as feared as ruthless dictators. Instead, the modern teacher has to bargain with their class, set up reward systems, and give them a reason to listen. Essentially, respect has to be earned. It's no longer a given.

A few workshops, Google searches, and seminars later, I realised that the reason my students weren't retaining information was due to a lack of focus when I delivered my instructions. If they weren't actively listening to me, how could I expect them to process and remember information? I saw that I had to develop a repertoire of tricks and techniques that I could use in any situation - no matter how out of hand - to bring the classroom focus back.

1. It starts with the voice. Vary your tone and / or pitch when refocusing the class. Make it easy to distinguish from your normal voice. This way, students will automatically recognise the response that is required from them. My refocusing voice is louder and slower than my normal voice. It is also slightly lower in pitch.

2. "Simon says". This is an age-old game, but it works for pretty much any age group. Quite often, children are unsettled and fidgety because of their excess energy. Getting them to run to the wall, touch the floor, or just stand up / sit down five times will get their blood pumping and deliver oxygen to their brains. Doing a 2-minute game of "Simon Says" won't take time out of your lesson plan, but it will save you energy in the long-run.

3. "Touch your nose". When a class is being rowdy and everyone is distracted, ask one student to touch their nose. Choose a quiet, well-behaved student. Then ask them to turn to the next person and tell them to do the same. The instruction will snake around the classroom, and you'll soon have a focused room of students who are ready to listen and learn.

4. Chants. "1, 2, 3, eyes on me" is a classic used by many teachers in English-speaking classrooms worldwide. Interestingly, it also works in French: "un, deux, trois, regardez moi". A simple rhyming phrase will be easy for your class to understand and remember. Fillers such as "alright", "well", or "so" just distract from the main message. Simple, monosyllabic language gets the point across quickly and efficiently. For primary school children who don't have desks, "1, 2, 3, hands on knees" works a treat.

5. Non-verbal cues. You can set up a system where a certain actions or gestures have specific meanings. For example, turning the lights off and on again a few times is sure to get their attention! You can also opt for less drastic means such as clapping hands. You can choose a special rhythm as a refocusing game and have the class learn it and later copy it.

6. Breathe in, breathe out. This is a simple but effective way of calming down a classroom and restoring order. Again, it delivers oxygen to the brain, but it also massively helps reduce stress. You could even go further and set aside meditation time during the lesson. Giving students set periods of 'games' and 'calm' will help you manage energy levels in a constructive environment.

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