Help! How do I Keep my Student’s Attention!?: Lesson Planning

A child’s attention span is about an hour long until they need some sort of mental break. So how the heck, as teachers, are we supposed to teach for 6 hours during the day?! We’ve discussed the production of lesson plans a lot in class lately, and with observations in the elementary schools, I can (finally) see how imperative it is to actually have a plan in store throughout the day. Sometimes, our friends think teaching is just playing with kids all day…boy, are they sorely mistaken! Teacher’s need to have a plan of action and enter that room ready to implement it–no exceptions! But, how do we do this without losing their attention throughout the day?

WikiHow describes the effective lesson plan in 6 steps:

1. Know your student’s likes and dislikes and plan lessons around their interests.

2. Know your objective.

3. Over-plan the class…do not leave giant gaps of time in which there is nothing filled.

4. Write your overview.

5. Set out your objective.

6. Plan your timeline.

While these are all great things to keep in mind while creating an effective lesson plan, they don’t answer the question I have most: What activities can I implement that will teach with the TEKS (and all other requirements) but also interest all 23 elementary students in my class?

One thing I have loved learning at Texas A&M is how to create lesson plans without the use of worksheets. I think that worksheets are great reinforces, however, I have observed that students tend to get burnt out on them quickly. They need action, kinetic movement, cognitive thinking skills, all of those things that require more out of them than just sitting at their desk filling out a worksheet. Can we evaluate their learning by a worksheet? Absolutely! But are they retaining that information or just spitting it out onto a piece of paper to receive a proper grade? As teachers, how can we build lesson plans to make sure students are retaining the information taught?

The positive use of technology in the classroom is a huge factor as to why students are so responsive when given the opportunity to use a computer, iPad, iPod, etc. It’s like they have never seen one before and get jittery and jumpy when it’s their time to get on the computer…when in fact, it’s just the opposite.  Schools have stressed the use of computers/laptops in the classroom more because it is exactly what the students are used to, not because they have never seen it before. The use of technology has proven to be a very effective way of learning in the classroom because it is so familiar with our students this day and age, and what they relate to most.

Which brings me to my next topic: carve your lesson plans out of things the students are interested in! Yes, it will be hard to fit all of your students likes into one lesson plan, but get to know your students! Know their fears, dreams, goals, likes and dislikes, favorite movie, favorite sport, favorite way to learn, everything and anything that will help you to help them! Studies time and time again have shown that students respond positively to lesson plans that interest them. There are so many ways to incorporate different activities that will catch your student’s attention and keep it for an extended period of time.

And last but not least, use different methods to evaluate learning other than worksheets! Use sentence strips, a game of jeopardy, magnet letters…anything that will get you the scores you need to see where your students are cognitively, but not sever their attention span to where they are rushing to get it done because of sheer boredom. Little do they know that when they are playing a game of jeopardy, they’re actually learning! Shhh…let’s keep that secret between us teachers!

Every student is eager to learn, it’s just the way that lessons are presented that catches their attention or not. If lessons are boring and repetitive, their willingness and desire to learn deteriorates until there’s really none left. We can change the outlook our students have on learning. We can be the change they need to want to learn. Now let’s go change learning.


“Making It Interesting.” N.p., 10 Feb. 2009. Web. 29 Sept. 2012. <;.

“How to Make a Lesson Plan.” WikiHow. Wikipedia, 14 June 2012. Web. 29 Sept. 2012. <;.

By: Rebecca McKee


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