Strategies for keeping attention

Keeping students' attention and stopping them from getting distracted is a big challenge.

Here are some reasons why students’ attention may wander and ways to keep your classes on track.

  • Keep in control. Anticipation is the best form of teacher defence so keep scanning the room, making eye contact with all students. You will catch those who are starting to fidget, look out of window or chat to their mates. Then you can react accordingly before the noise level has distracted everyone and created a situation.
  • Keep in tune with the class. Don’t just glide along with the best. If one student answers your questions this is not proof that all the others are following what is being discussed. Aim for responses from as wide a sample as possible. Don’t just accept answers from the 3 or 4 class leaders or you will leave the rest behind.
  • Keep checking understanding. Try not to use questions like “Do you understand ?” or “Has everyone got that ?” Students are notoriously wary of admitting they haven’t understood, especially if their peers are feigning comprehension! Use further questions to see if they have understood the concepts.
  • Keep demonstrating. Attention wanders when they don’t know what to do and are too afraid to admit it. Keep your instructions to a minimum and demonstrate what to do rather than giving lengthy or detailed explanations. If nearly half of them are clearly unsure and starting to flounder or chat in their mother tongue, take action. Call on the pairs who are doing the task successfully to demonstrate their work as an example for others then try again.

Changing the pace
Here are some tried and tested techniques for changing the pace of the lesson to keep students awake.

  • Chant. Select a weekly chant which rouses students. Students stand or sit, clap along or snap their fingers and repeat the rap you have devised. This can be a quotation for higher levels or a sentence construction covered by lower levels. Make it short, snappy and fun.
  • Drill. Use some quick fire questioning around the class and involve as many as possible. Then get the students to do the questions as well as supplying answers. Use visuals as prompts for this questioning.
  • Play a game. Do a 10 minute revision game involving everyone pooling ideas, words or questions. Even a spelling game for beginners does the trick. Word association or memory games work well!
  • Give a dictation. They do have to concentrate here ! It might be just a short piece of text or a list of words .It could be some lines from a song in the charts.

By Clare Lavery


Submitted by gg on Sun, 02/21/2016 - 12:55


Thank you. I will be starting a teaching job soon and I was really wondering how I will tackle class management . I think u got everything I need here. Much obliged

Submitted by Zuleyner on Wed, 04/27/2016 - 02:54


I´m happy due british counsial give us teacher many tips and extrategy to apply in class with our student and it makes the training process more effective.

Submitted by usenkod on Thu, 11/03/2016 - 02:04


"Use some quick fire questioning around the class and involve as many as possible." Can you give an example?

Research and insight

We have hundreds of case studies, research papers, publications and resource books written by researchers and experts in ELT from around the world. 

See our publications, research and insight

Sign up to our newsletters for teachers and teacher educators

We will process your data to send you our newsletter and updates based on your consent. You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the "unsubscribe" link at the bottom of every email. Read our privacy policy for more information.