How to Keep Kids Focused on Learning and Not Summer

It's hard to believe that summer break is right around the corner! The increase in temperature often leads to a decrease in students' attention spans. Kids begin daydreaming about upcoming vacations. Many stress over future final exams and end-of-course assessments. These can be difficult challenges teachers must face with all grade levels. What plans have you prepared to keep students' attention during the last weeks of school? If your teaching toolbox is lacking, here are a few ideas to get you started.

Brain breaks shift attention from one activity to another. Brain breaks are quick activities that tie to a lesson's content or incorporate movement to awaken attention. They work best following a prolonged period of inactivity. This may be after a lecture, silent reading or writing assignment, or test. During the brain break, the teacher engages students in an activity which alerts the brain that something new must be done. The activity wakes the senses anew. The activity itself can be as simple as having students change seats or spin their own desks to face a new focal point. Something as easy as changing perspective is all that it takes to keep kids' minds on track.

Think-Pair-Share activities are another type of brain break. For this, the teacher poses a problem or question to the class. Individually, they think about it, which may include jotting down notes. Next, each student pairs with a partner. Together, they discuss their prior thought or possible solution. Finally, the pair (or as individuals) shares that information with the class (or the teacher). Think-Pair-Share brain breaks can refresh student attention while keeping them focused on a lesson's objective.

Making students the center of attention instead of the teacher is another great way to captivate a class's attention. Students love watching other students. Design lessons that include skits and demonstrations; this gives students the opportunity to practice their speaking skills and listening skills, plus something to look at that's a break from the routine.

Similarly, new faces are powerful attention-holders too. While you may not be able to schedule a field trip, booking a speaker is an economical alternative. Search your community connections for a volunteer who is able to visit your class. Speakers can bring a new perspective to units of study. Visitors working in a particular field can also inspire students to set career goals. You may also consider inviting ambassadors of summer programs that will be held in the community. This inspires many kids to keep learning during the break.

On an especially nice day, some teachers find the outdoors useful for keeping students engaged with their learning. You may plan to hold class outside; what's even better is to design a learning activity that uses the surrounding environment.

If your students are subject to taking a major test in the near future, review with a collage project. Here is an opportunity for students to get creative as they find artifacts or sketch drawings for their collage. Provide students with a list of review topics for the test and require students to build their collages with images to symbolize what they know. Take it a step farther: have students meet with others to explain why they included particular images.

By the end of the year, your students have learned a great deal. Creating awards for the best part of a class is a good way for students to review. Awards can be written on paper or crafted with art supplies. Extend this activity further by having students explain their reason for their bestowment. Besides being a fun review tool, these awards can be valuable feedback for you as well. You will see what remained imprinted in their brains and what totally missed the mark.

In relation to the course content, what else do students want to know? Let students individually research more about what you have taught them. Since students will vary a great deal in ability, consider assessing their learning in multiple ways. You may offer a list of possibilities from which they can them to choose. You may also want to group students by interest and assess them both collectively and individually.

Without a change in pace, the days before summer break can be a nightmare for students and teachers. Wake up before it begins. You aren't ready to start counting down the number of school days left until you have made preparations to keep kids focused on learning.