How to Regain and Keep Attention in Class | Sunday School Solutions
Tips for Resetting Kids’ Attention
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ve probably picked up on the fact that we’re huge fans of GAMES! Kids and games are like peanut butter and jelly—they just go together. Kids love playing games so a good way to keep their attention throughout class (or regain it when it’s lost) is to make listening to the teacher fun and exciting.
One game that I personally use a LOT is called “Do This, Do That.” It’s a little like Simon Says, but with a twist. I tell the kids, “If I say, ‘Do this,’ (and then I do an action like putting my hands on my head) then you do it. But if I say ‘Do that,’ (I’ll put my hands on my hips), then you DON’T do it.” If a child does the action when I say “Do that,” then they need to sit down and they are “out.” The last child (or several children) standing are the winners! I usually play a “practice” round so they get the hang of it. I have two rules that I give the children—the first rule is that if they reach for the next action and it is “Do that,” then they are still out. The second rule is that they have to keep up with me! As the game goes along, I go faster and faster. Kids LOVE this game! I use it often, especially when they’ve been sitting for a long time and I sense they need to move. Or, if they’re having trouble paying attention and they’re on the verge of distraction I will play “Do This, Do That.” It gets their wiggles out and gives them a “reset” for the next part of class.
Keeping the kids’ attention to maintain order in the classroom is essential, especially because you are sharing with them the most important message of all—the message of the Gospel!
If you watched the “Regaining Attention” video, you learned another effective way to achieve a “reset” is to play “If you can hear my voice…” Softly say, “If you can hear my voice…” and then add an action such as clap twice or whatever you choose! Continue with different actions until you’ve regained attention. It’s a really effective way to bring kids back to listening.
Another attention-grabber you can prepare before class is a “code word” for the day, which was also talked about in the video. At times of transition or when the class is restless, call out “code word”! They can jump up and say it, and you may even want to add motions for extra movement. This “reset” is very effective!
Tips for Gaining and Keeping Their Attention
There are a lot of strategies you can put in your “tips and tricks” supply that can help you grab children’s attention at the beginning of class and hold it all the way through. Here are 10 ideas.
1. Use visuals in your class. Statistically, 65% of people are visual learners, meaning they learn best when they have a visual to look at or read. You can use this to your advantage and provide visuals for your class. You might find free Bible lesson pictures online to show the children as you tell the story. Or you can visualize the memory verse on a poster board, chalkboard/ whiteboard or PowerPoint®. Objects count as visuals too! The more things you can hold up and show the children, the more their attention will be on you and what you are saying. If the children can interact with the visual in some way it will lead to even better attention and learning. Children can come point to certain words or objects on the visual, come up and write on the board or touch the visual if possible. Doing these things will also help cement the lesson in their minds.
2. Let children interact with the lesson. Children need to move and be active, and what better way than to let them experience the Bible lesson! If characters in the story are traveling, have the children stand up and travel with you. If they are running, have them run in place. Sleeping? Have them pretend to sleep. Look for several places in your lesson where children can move and act out the story and you will definitely keep their attention. Recently I was teaching the story of David being anointed as the next king. I had seven boys come up in front and as I told the story, had them sit down one by one as God said, “No, not this one!” The boys enjoyed helping and the other kids were riveted wondering which one of the sons would be chosen.
3. Use puppets and skits. This is a great way to “mix it up” in your class and also give the kids something different to watch. You may use just one puppet or have a whole puppet show. Skits can also be a great way to teach part of a lesson or get across a particular truth. For young children, having a puppet that visits weekly and does certain things can be a highlight of class! You can say, “Our friend can’t come out until everyone is ready and listening!”
4. Sing songs! Songs can be a great way to add variety to the class hour. Instead of singing all the songs at once, consider spreading them throughout the class hour. If you visit cefonline.com/freedemos you will find music videos for memory verses and other songs that kids LOVE and that will get them moving AND learning God’s Word. If the children’s attention is waning, try singing a song to give them a “reset” so they’re ready for the next part of class. (Visit cefpress.com to purchase song visuals, CDs, or download MP3 of individual songs or MP4 music video albums.)
5. Have a written schedule. If you are teaching on a team, having a written schedule is a great way to keep your class moving and provide a variety of activities. The schedule can list the activity and who is teaching it. It’s amazing how much your class can transform with a little bit of organization!
6. Be ready to teach your part. If you’re teaching on a team, know when your part is next and be ready to start as soon as the previous teacher is done. “Dead space” is the perfect time for children to find other things that interest them, tell their neighbor a funny story or plot extra mischief. Don’t allow “dead space” by being ready to teach when it’s your turn.
7. Involve all age groups. One of the challenges of teaching larger groups of children is that often there is a large age range too. Things that interest a kindergartner may be too childish for a fifth grader. This can lead to disruptions in class if some of the kids are We’ll talk about that in another blog, but one idea is to involve the older kids as much as possible—have them help you by holding visuals, passing out hand-outs, helping with song motions, etc. This will give the older kids a sense of purpose and the younger ones will have fun too!
8. Consider your seating arrangement. Sometimes you can avoid a “reset” in your class simply by arranging smart seating. If there are two friends that have a little too much fun in class, have them sit by others or by a teacher. If you have a wide age range, consider seating them in rows or groups by grade so similar grades and ages are seated together.
9. Plan a behavior incentive. Check out our blog post called “Kids can OBEY and PLAY!” for many fantastic ideas!
10. Be flexible. Probably one of the most important skills a teacher learns is to be flexible. While schedules, plans and fun are a huge help to keep the kids’ engaged in class, sometimes you just need to be flexible. That might mean switching the order of activities, not doing a certain activity, or just sitting and listening to the kids and answering their questions.
If you use some of these tips and tricks you’ll find your class in much less need of a “reset” because you’ll have their attention from the start! But if you do lose their attention during class, don’t lose heart! Keep trying and ask God to give you His wisdom on how your class can be the most effective in sharing the message of the Gospel with the children. God promises that if we come to Him, seeking wisdom, He will give it (James 1:5). God is using you to reach and disciple children!
Now you’re ready to START!
If you need lesson ideas, you can find visual aids, lesson text, and missionary stories at CEF Press.