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Want Your Students to Pay Attention?

Before you read this, watch this video. The first minute and forty seconds gift-wrap one of the best lessons on how to teach. The next two minutes show you the impact on kids. The final eight and a-half minutes may inspire you for life.



What did you learn? By the time I finished, tears kissed my cheeks. Once they dried, here’s what I noticed…


1. Students pay attention when you put yourself in the lesson.

When he made a class announcement, he turned into the annoying announcement system complete with silly noises.  He didn’t talk about a pumpkin exploding; he did it himself in class.  He let fire shoot from his hand to the ceiling.  He laid down and put the bed of nails on his own chest.


Students pay attention when they’re entertained.  And as Mr. Wright said, “as soon as you get the kid asking how or why, I can rope ’em in.”


You can rope ’em in if you make what you’re teaching come alive in front of them.


2. Students pay more attention when you put them in the lesson.

Once they ask how, Mr. Wright lets them participate.  Students pilot the leaf blower hovercraft.  Students surround and help load the potato launcher.  A student lights the fireball in Mr. Wright’s hand.  A student slams the sledgehammer down on Mr. Wright’s chest.


No one falls asleep.  Learning comes through action, not memorization.  If you take a risk with them, they’ll start taking the risk of learning.  That’s why students love Mr. Wright.  That’s why they love you.


3. Students pay most attention when they know you care.

Mr. Wright points out that school lasts six hours a day, leaving another eighteen hours that affect a student’s life.  “Schools can change a lot, but we also have to realize that they go home to a completely different environment.”  They may not open up immediately.  But when they believe that you care, they’ll tell you what’s happening to them outside of school.  Your concern is a ray of hope against the dragons that seek to swallow their dreams.


4. Why is more important than How.

Why are you a teacher?  If it’s because you’re passionate to see kids eyes light up with joy, they’ll marvel as you shine like the sun.  If it’s just to cash a paycheck or fulfill an obligation, they’ll pay attention to something that shines brighter.


But take heart.  Even the parts you don’t like about yourself will win them over, if you let them.  You’re already a hero.  Don’t be afraid to let them see it.


Your friend,



PS: I’ve been asked to give my “Teach Students How to Write… and Love it” workshop on October thirty-first to a bunch of administrators and teachers at a curriculum conference in Arkansas.  Check out that page and follow the links to contact us if you or your teachers need my help.

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