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Grabbing Your Student's Attention: Why Is It Mission Impossible?



Students paying attention


Would you believe me when I tell you it's impossible to grab anyone's attention? Don't even try to grab attention from anyone. This is because attention is always voluntarily given and never grabbed by force.


It took me some time to learn this lesson. I failed many times before I figured out this truth. My student would easily fool me and pretend to be paying attention, only to realize a few minutes later that I was tricked. What I needed to do instead was to grow my students' interest in what I was saying or doing so I could win their attention. Yes, attention is a precious prize to be won. Whatever you have to teach, if your students don't believe it's worthwhile for them, they won't engage.


To win your student's attention, all you have to do is to show her that you have something worthwhile for her to give her attention, as simple as that! You have to see the world through your student's eyes and find ways to make them willingly listen to what you want to say.


The following strategies always work for me. If you are in a similar position and have an easily distracted student, I suggest you try them. I am sure they will work for you too.


 

Establish a good rapport with your student:



It's a no-brainer, we always pay attention to people we like and have a good relationship with. This is probably the most important of all the strategies, if you only focus on building a good rapport with your student, you will probably have some success.

This starts from the second you open the door for the first time to your student. Become approachable, and always create a welcoming atmosphere in your studio. Smile, and maintain open body language. Take the time to get to know your student, and ask about their interests, and hobbies.

Show empathy, your student is just the same as the rest of us and most probably facing challenges that will affect their performance during the lesson. Treat your students with respect and expect the same from them. Set your boundaries and respect theirs.

In other words, be someone whom the student willingly gives their attention to.


 

Personalize the lesson:



As piano teachers, we get comfortable using a certain set of method books and a fixed lesson plan and stick to them, regardless of who is the student. After all, this makes things smoother, and faster, of course, because less preparation is required. Honestly, I was guilty of this, I fell into this trap as well. Until I learned better, what I now know for sure is that if you intend to operate a neurodiverse studio this approach will prove to be counterproductive.

Adapt your teaching methods, and materials, and accommodate your students' diverse needs and abilities. Provide options for instruction to suit different students, and give them the chance to demonstrate their understanding and perform in ways that work for them. This will probably need a lot of preparation, particularly in the initial few months, until eventually everything falls into place and the lessons start to flow.


 

Discuss your lesson plan:


Teacher and Student

Students want to feel that they have control over what is happening during the lesson. Allowing students to provide some kind of input and talking to them about the lesson plan before you begin helps them feel empowered encourages them, and gives them motivation to participate in the learning by giving you their attention.

In addition, this provides you with the necessary feedback that can help you make adjustments to your teaching approach to better meet the needs of your students. It is a win-win situation.


 

Use visuals:


Visuals are masters at capturing students' attention and making the learning process more engaging and interactive. Colors and interesting visuals stimulate students' interest, motivating them to give you their attention willingly and happily.



What do you think will capture a kid's attention more, explaining how to play a five-finger pattern in words or showing him the picture above?

Students have different learning styles, and visuals cater to visual learners who learn better through images and colors. By using visuals, you can ensure that you're catering to the needs of all learners in your studio.

In other words, incorporating visuals into your piano lessons will enrich the learning experience, promote deeper understanding, and cater to the diverse needs of students.


 

Be clear and concise:


Target

Choose words and phrases that are easy to understand, reducing ambiguity and confusion. Keep your sentences short and teach in tiny steps, always remove repetitive or redundant phrases that do not add value and only create confusion. The more you talk the less attention the student will probably give you, demonstrate more, and talk less.


 

Remove distractions:


Many children, particularly children with special needs have difficulty filtering sensory overload because when distractions are present, even if we're not actively engaging with them, our brain still needs to filter them out, thus consuming a lot of brain resources and reducing attention.

Moreover, constant exposure to distractions leads to stress and overwhelm. By creating an environment with fewer distractions, we can promote a sense of control, and guarantee better attention.


 

Use varied instruction methods:



Sitting on the piano bench for the whole duration of the lesson can be one of the worst things to do if the student is a preschooler, hyperactive, or has special needs. Adding another method of instruction such as movement will guarantee that information is presented in ways that accommodate diverse learning needs. Adding movement will benefit students who do better with a kinesthetic learning style.

Using visuals and adding movement to the lesson can help maintain children’s attention and engagement during the lesson by reducing restlessness and breaking up monotony. It has been scientifically proven that combining music and movement provides many mental and physical benefits including social interactions and language growth since children will be using a multi-sensory approach to learning.


 

Use a timer:


Setting a timer provides a clear structure and deadline for completing a task. This helps kids feel that the work is manageable and as a result, they stay focused on the task at hand within the allocated time frame.

Without a timer, students may be more prone to deviate their attention from the current task, which can fragment attention and reduce overall productivity.

Using a timer helps in managing time and maintaining focus and provides accountability. If you don't use it during your lessons, give it a try and watch magic happen.

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