Hocus Focus.. How to Capture and Maintain Your Students Focus Like MAGIC!

The bell rings and there they all sit, with those little faces trying to decide which distraction in class will pull them away from the task at hand. Today's technologically advanced students have incredible focus when they put their minds to it, the problem is there is so much COMPETITION. What’s a teacher to do?

Let me offer the following suggestion. You need to do something totally unexpected at the beginning of your lesson to grab their attention to distract them, if you will, from all of the internal distractions they bring to your class each day. Then after you grab their attention, you promise that you will share something else at the end of the lesson if they stay on task. What you accomplish is gaining their focus and encouraging them to follow through. All in all a successful class session!

I suppose now you want me to share how? I will share one way I do it. I am an educational speaker from Minnesota and I share school assembly programs with thousands of kids each year. I use many techniques to capture focus, things like music, sound effects, simple puppetry, but primarily MAGIC!

Magic is intriguing to kids, they are naturally curious and if you start your lesson with a magic trick you incite curiosity. If you combine it with your educational message you will capture and maintain their focus. Then a promise of another mystery at the end of the lesson and they have something to look forward to.

Here is an example of what I am talking about...


Imagine this, you're sitting in class explaining that your lesson is to discuss one of 3 historical wars. As a bonus, the class gets to vote on which of three wars you will discuss. You show a manila envelope and display three pieces of poster board each with the name of a war: Korean, WWII, and Vietnam war. You announce that the selection will be made democratically and you poll the class to see which war will be discussed. Let's imagine after you poll your class, Korean war is selected. You turn to your class and say, “That is very strange, read the note that is in the envelope...”. Your students find a note and upon opening it, it says...most students find the KOREAN war the most interesting, so do I, I will plan on discussing the Korean war!

FRAME OF REFERENCE: The teacher can have the students choose between one of three topics and whichever they choose the teacher correctly predicts the results.

Think about this scenario for a moment, you knew which of three possible outcomes they would pick before they actually did. Do you think this would make a strong impression on your students? You bet it would! What makes this so effective is the simple method. In the magical world, this is known as a multiple out. What that means is, you are right no matter which war is chosen.

Needed: 3 pieces of poster board, an opaque envelope to put the three cards in, and your teacher's guide/notebook.

Have the wars Korean, VietNam, and WWII printed on the 3 poster board cards. On the back of the WWII card write: Most students find the WWII the most interesting, so do I, we shall discuss WWII! In the envelope that contains the cards have a note that states: Most students find the Korean war the most interesting, so do I, we shall discuss the Korean war! Finally, in your teacher guide/calendar insert a bright piece of paper that states: Most students find the Vietnam war the most interesting, so do I, we shall discuss the Gulf War!

Step-by-step instructions : From this point, it should be fairly obvious what happens. You put the cards on the table and have the students vote for their American Conflict. Then simply direct them to the appropriate source. Afterthoughts: Now in this example I used American wars but you could use countries, parts of the Constitution, famous paintings...whatever 3 subjects you deem are appropriate for your current lesson can be used.

Now there are other ways to reveal your prediction, one teacher I know recorded one response on her answering machine. She decided to replace the note in the teacher guide. If the students selected that particular subject, she pulled out her cell phone, and dialed her own # (don’t give the student your # for obvious reasons). She would then hand the phone to the student to listen to the answering machine which would say the prediction. Technical Notes: Use your creative juices and you may be able to come up with other “outs” like the answering machine. If you use my 3 suggestions and the answering machine, you could have 4 subjects for the kids to choose from instead of 3.

So there you have it, a great way to kick-off a history lesson! Now how can you use this tool to relate to your next lesson plan? We often tell kids that they need to be more creative, it doesn’t hurt for us to exercise our creative muscles as well.
Author: Brian Richards

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