I have a class this semester that loses their concentration is and easily distracted but they enjoy my class. Methods as listed above were not working because they were not listening and able to apply what they heard and learned. Out of desperation of getting through to them I asked for their suggestions on how to make the class more productive and increase real learning. Unfortunately they did not provide usable feedback. I tried lots of methods with this class and one of the most successful was giving demonstrations that they had to take notes on and then complete using only their notes. The degree of concentration went up significantly and the learning stuck because they saw, wrote, read, and applied the information.
Demonstrations are great if everyone wants to learn and is paying attention. In years past this has always been an effective method of delivering content because the students were engaged. This semester I have a particularly distracted bunch of students. I show them a demonstration and then have them go make what I demonstrated. Over and over again I have to repeat instructions and explain things that I already demonstrated and explained thoroughly. I was perplexed for a while at how to solve this problem. I finally approached it by making them accountable for what they saw in the demonstrations through a combination of note taking, competitions and grades based on their ability to apply their notes from the demonstration they just watched to produce the desired results.
One day I was asking my students a question while they were taking notes, I kept asking the question over and over because no one was responding which was unusual for a pretty talkative class. Finally after they all stopped writing I noticed that they would then be able to answer my questions. I cut to the chase that day and asked every class how many of them could listen and take notes at the same time. Most of them said they couldn’t. I was in disbelief. I thought that I had done them a favor by giving them just fill in the blank notes but apparently they still were not absorbing what I was saying beyond the notes. We all learn better through story associations. This means that if we hear a story or example it helps us remember a concept or term. They were totally missing out on all my explanations, examples, and stories because they could not take notes and listen at the same time.