5 Techniques to Re-Engage Your Students When They Are Distracted

Ideas contributed by: Coach Carrie, Chilin, Mandy, Melody, Ricky, Skye

Teachers, new or experienced, have all been there, trying everything they possibly can to involve students in learning so that they can at least get something out of the lesson. It brings relief to teachers when they win back students' attention, but one would consider themselves lucky when this does happen in a brick-and-mortar classroom, let alone in an online setting.

Because sometimes, students don't listen, whatever the cause would that be. Keeping students concentrated is no easy task, which takes a lot of effort and patience. Too often, kinder intention leads to worse frustration, which results in that teachers are seen to either be too strict or seemingly too unconcerned, especially when the virtual classroom is already inherently distancing all those involved.

So the question is - What can we do better to manage such circumstances?

How can we re-engage students in class in an inviting and caring manner without costing already-built rapport and causing unnecessary misunderstanding?


Here are five ways that you might want to try to incorporate into your class. 

1. Calling all students' names to prompt participation 

In class, it is not that difficult to get some responses from students. However, to ensure every student is included and participating is always challenging but indeed crucial. Unlike in a real classroom, students are more prone to distractions during online lessons since they cannot interact with teachers face to face.

When we call students by name, they tend to be more engaged and alert. Using students’ names regularly to prompt, encourage and interact can also help teachers build rapport with the students. It makes it easier to keep them participating. Some of the names might be hard to pronounce, but you could always check with students. They would love to tell, if not proudly. 

If this sounds helpful to you, feel free to apply it in your class, and we are sure you will find your students more responsive. Try to add their names when giving instructions or praising them. It can be just as simple as "Koby, Momo, let me hear you guys/your turn!" "Koby, Momo, excellent!"

2. Asking guiding questions to re-direct the conversation

Teachers love to see students sharing their thoughts eagerly and excitedly. But things can go a little out of control when some become very talkative and go off-topic sometimes. On the other hand, there are also students not being able to keep up hence losing concentration, often due to a limited language capability. 

Content-based guiding questions can help re-navigate the direction of the talk and bring back the students' attention - they divert the attention of distracted or overactive students back to the target content. 

For example, one student had gone too far into talking about his family trip to another country while he should've only shared where they had seen a sea animal - you could ask "Would you like to live under the ocean?" By doing the above, we would be able to draw their attention back to the learning target of sea animal habitat. It may sound simple, but it can re-direct students' focus back to the current lesson and allow the less advanced student to participate again. 


3.Acting out to capture students’ attention

Feeling stressed when students are not showing up in front of the camera because they get distracted by their surroundings? Do not worry! Try some dramatic expressions (active body language, facial expressions, and tones) to attract their attention. 😉

Here are some examples:

  • Ask - "Koby, where are you?" WHILE using hands to make a telescope gesture pretending to search
  • Say - "Frank, I can't see you!" WHEN covering your eyes with hands
  • Chant - "Everybody, look at Teacher, look at Teacher" WHILE waving hands 

It is just a snapshot of what teachers might do, and you can certainly be more creative than that! But the point is, through these teachers could re-capture students’ attention while toning down the seriousness of their lack of participation. So be sure to give it a go in class.

Oh! Do not forget to raise your pitch and use a cheerful tone when you act out!

4.Conducting pair work to encourage peer support

Peer support is often an effective way of managing the different rates at which students learn. Faster learners can take the role of being the model and assistant, helping those who are distracted or struggling in class. Having learners distracted involved in pair work may lead to more positive attitudes toward learning and increased self-confidence.

With that in mind, if you fail to capture Student Koby's attention after several attempts, for example, you can give him "an attention break" and move on to Student Momo during pair work. Having Student Momo set a good example, you can then go back and guide Student Koby to practice the language point purposefully (E.g. Teachers say - "Way to go! Koby! Now, Momo, can you say xxx?"/ "Momo, Koby, all together, say xxx").

5. Using platform tools as assistance

If nothing seems to work in your favor, then the tools in the Qkids classroom would come in handy to help “ring” your students back to class. 

The Remind Student Bell is a quick one. This button allows teachers to communicate expectations for participation by notifying the students and(or) their families without interrupting your lesson and putting students on the spot. It targets those who are quiet and get distracted by their surroundings and those who have their video cameras covered (or not showing their full faces). 

Now you must wonder, what if students are running around in their room ad refuse to listen to the Robot Reminders? You are right! - Yes, CCTs would be good helpers in such a situation. If needed, do not hesitate to use Chat Box to send messages and contact Qkids staff for help. The team is there to support and can contact parents for assistance.  

Qkids platform has several good tools for teachers to quickly focus students' attention, like the spotlight, highlight wand, etc. Be sure to explore and take advantage of them to assist classroom management and student behavior support. 


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