Especially with zoom lessons, I find that capturing students' attention is becoming harder. Children are becoming more and more used to having instant gratification in the form of technology that tuition lessons can be quite a gruesome experience for some of them. How do we capture our student's attention? Here are 5 tips from us!
1. Make known to them the goals for the lesson
At the start of every lesson, I would always let my students know what I wanted to achieve. Whether it is to complete going through past week's homework or to start on a new assessment paper, I would always tell them before we embark on the conquest. The reason for this is to allow the student to see the end.
Think back to when you were a student struggling through heaps of assessment papers, what do you hope for the most? For this suffering to end! When the student is unable to see the end, they become restless and lose their focus. They think this would go on forever. (in their dramatic minds)
The best way to convey the goals for the lesson is to get the student to agree with you or to promise you that they would do their best to achieve the goals. For example, I would always ask: "Alice, today we are going to go through the homework you did and then we will complete the MCQ for the next paper. Just the MCQ and then we will end our lesson there, okay?" This primes the student's mind to give you the kind of focus required for that lesson.
2. Ask them questions
As a rule of thumb, ask the student one question every 5 mins. The questions that you ask should be of a certain difficulty as well. You should not ask questions like "Are you listening?" or "Understand?". There are definitely times for those questions. However, we want to capture the student's attention by asking them slightly more difficult questions.
Questions such as "Can you show me how to solve the problem I had just gone through with you?" are great because they immediately show how much the student has absorbed. Asking these questions also allow the students to learn much faster.
There is a study technique known as "Active Recall" and it is used by students from some of the most rigorous academic courses such as Medicine and Law. By asking your students difficult questions, it actually helps them to recall what they have just learned and that further reinforces the knowledge that they have absorbed.
3. Give short breaks
We all need a break sometimes. The struggle that most tutors face with this is that they fear that the student's parents would be upset with the student "wasting time". This can be a real problem especially if the tutor is new. The notion that tuition lessons must be rigorous and boring was put in our heads since young by our own teachers and parents. Therefore, we think that great tutors only teach in a strict fashion.
This cannot be further from the truth. Please, please, please never think that lessons must go on without a break and that the student should find the lessons difficult to go through. Throw this mindset out of your head for the new age of teaching is here.
At Lumie Lessons, we believe that effective lessons should be fun and engaging. The practical advice that I would give to tutors who face this problem is to firstly gain the trust of the parents. Prove to them and show them that you are a tutor who truly cares about the student's grades and welfare. Once you have done that, the parents will allow you to teach their child with your own method. Personally, I let my students watch Science YouTube videos during lessons if they earn it!
4. Make eye contact
When we teach, we can get so caught up thinking about what we want to say that we forget the simplest form of communication: eye contact. Eye contact is extremely powerful as it sends a subtle signal to the student that you are watching them. You show that you care about their answers and how much they are learning.
I have seen many tutors go on and on blabbering on the topic whilst losing the gaze of their students. The students can be said to be in "la la land". By employing the subtle skill of maintaining eye contact with the student, you capture their attention and they begin to put in more effort. Of course, remember to cut the eye contact once in awhile to avoid being creepy.
5. Stop being boring
This is the best tip I can give: just stop being boring. At that age, all the student really wants is to have fun. As there are more boring teachers than there are fun teachers, students automatically associate lessons with boredom. Therefore, they dread the thought of having to go for lessons. What if you can make it fun for them? What if the tutor is not just a tutor, but an entertainer as well? You would be able to change their entire framework of lessons.
How do we stop being boring? For one, stop thinking like an adult when you are teaching a young student. The worst mistake we can make is to communicate with the student like every other adult. Their minds automatically assume we are as boring as the rest of the adults in their lives.
What we need to do is to think like them. Get into their interests, their hobbies and ask about their lives. Be a little goofy at times and let your inner child take over. Ever heard of the YouTube channel "Blippi"? The one reason he is so successful is because he is acting like a child. While in character, Blippi thinks and acts like a 5 year-old kid. He has millions of views from children all around the world because he is good at one thing: acting like a kid.
I'm not telling you to throw away the serious adult side of you while teaching because that would destroy the entire purpose of tuition lessons. What I'm saying is that there is no harm to think like the student once in awhile and show them that fun/engaging side of you. I achieved this by telling students about my mischiefs when I was their age. Glad they find me relatable!