Some students need, nay demand, more than their fair share of attention. They have to be the centre of attention at least for some part of the lesson. Once they get their fix, these students will often settle down and work hard for their teacher. If they feel the teacher has gone out of their way to accommodate their needs, they may even become an ally – enforcing the rules on the teacher’s behalf without being requested to do so.
Giving them a job works well for a range of situations and can be applied in almost all settings. In fact, some teachers will make up jobs that probably don’t need doing just so they can enjoy the benefits of this technique. When students crave attention, sometimes giving them what they want in a controlled and limited fashion can help stem their excessive energy while directing their attention to the lesson at hand. This helps the teacher and the student to build rapport, it curtails off-task and attention-seeking behaviour and ultimately removes the sheer volume of repetitive responses required to manage chronic attention-seekers (‘Johnny, don’t do that’ etc.). Think of this technique as the ‘give them what they want’ approach.
Hint: This technique is a cornerstone strategy used by experienced teachers when constructing behaviour plans for students with ADHD – it provides these students with an outlet for their energy while allowing them to contribute to the activity or lesson. This in turn builds a more positive classroom atmosphere.
There are a never-ending number of ways that teachers can apply this strategy. A simple job can be writing on the board. Another can be copying down everything from the board so the teacher can make copies to hand out. The student may be put in charge of a particular area such as the reading corner – books must always be in perfect alphabetical order. Just as effective are non-routine tasks, particularly when they relate to the lesson at hand. This may include handing out equipment, collecting resources, recording attendance, being the ‘line leader’ when walking from one place to another, helping a fellow student who was absent the day before, being a friend to new student and so forth – basically any activity where the student is provided the opportunity to do something special for the teacher and especially if the task involves getting the attention of others in some way. This fulfils the student’s need for social interaction and peer validation.
A final tip is to use this technique as a reward for positive behaviour and as a positive prompt. For example, the teacher knows Zoe is about to become a problem as her attention is waning. The teacher wants to get out in front of this and says, ‘Zoe you have been working quietly all lesson – choose a friend and you can both pack up the art materials for me’.
When students crave attention, sometimes giving them what they want in a controlled and limited fashion can help stem their excessive energy while directing their attention to the lesson at hand.
Hint: Students love helping the teacher to make decisions such as judging a drawing competition or narrowing down which book should be read to the class. Another treat is picking a student to be a helper for a class demonstration – students will do almost anything for this coveted reward.
Adam Green is an advisor to government, a registered teacher, an instructional designer and a #1 best selling author. He is completing a Doctor of Education and was previously head of department for one of the country’s largest SAER (students at educational risk) schools. Adam is managing director of ITAC, an accredited training provider for thousands of teacher aides every year.
Source: Behaviour Management Skills and Strategies for the Modern Classroom: 100+ research-based strategies for both novice and experienced practitioners.
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