In a world of increasing distractions and decreasing attention spans, it can be difficult to keep a young person’s attention. These simple tips can help you with how to talk so your students listen.
Get Their Attention First
First, get the students attention. You can’t expect a student to snap to attention the moment you start speaking, especially if they are absorbed in a book or digital device. For an individual student, place your hand on their shoulder and make eye contact. If you are in a classroom, use a universal quiet signal such as a hand raise or chimes to get their attention. Give students a few minutes’ warning to finish up what they were working on or to end their conversations before you begin the discussion or next task.
Focus on the Positive
As the old adage says, “You can catch more flies with honey.” If you use negative phrases such as “don’t run” or “stop talking to your neighbor,” you only criticize the student and fail to instruct what to do in place of the undesirable behavior. Use more positive language such as “walk please” or “please finish your assignment quietly” so the student knows what to do instead.
Repeat After Me
Lectures are easily tuned out, especially when a student is used to hearing lectures from you. Ask the student to repeat any directions you give before working on a task. The student will soon learn to pay more attention if they know you will ask them to repeat what you said.
Be realistic about the developmental stage of your students. The brains of our students are growing, yet still underdeveloped. The frontal lobe of the brain is the area that operates planning, impulse control, goal setting and time management. Surprisingly, this area of the brain is not fully developed until the mid-twenties! Be patient. Students of all ages need reminders and guidance to complete tasks. If you are a teacher, you serve as a “surrogate frontal lobe” for your student.
If you treat your students with respect, have patience and are mindful of their developmental milestones, you will be able to talk so students listen.