Handling students’ demands for attention

It may seem obvious, but one of the skills you have to have as a teacher is how to manage a classroom full of students who are all clamouring for your attention at once.  During my first prac, I totally did not anticipate how much attention each student would be demanding at any given time, especially the younger students.  So I didn’t come prepared with any strategies to handle their constant demand for attention.  It manifests itself in many ways – some students behave inappropriately, some students are generally disruptive, some had genuine questions about their work and needed help in order to progress their understanding.  And finally, some just needed reassurance (every 5 seconds!) that they were on the right track.

So how on earth was I going to deal with this problem?  During my second prac I improved, and started focusing on the students that were being disruptive.  But as I got to know the students, I realised that some were just bored – they needed to be engaged with more difficult work.  So I put together a resource folder, and students would work to their own level of achievement during their prac time.

During my third prac, I improved further.  For example, I stopped answering every single question that was put to me straight away.  Instead, I paid attention to the types of questions being asked, and once they had accumulated, I addressed the class as a group.  I also reminded them of the importance of listening in order to know what was being asked of them the first time, if that was the issue.  I also prioritised my own attention to the students that were needing it most – and that was usually the ones that were behaving inappropriately.  By prioritising managing their behaviour using Positive Behaviour for Learning (PBL), I was able to then use the rest of my time more effectively managing and teaching the class.

I still have a long way to go, but managing students’ competing need for attention is a really important issue that needs addressing in the classroom.

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