It’s true: maintaining focus in the classroom is imperative to your academic success. No matter how much or how well you study at home, if you miss out on the important content your teacher delivers in class, then you’re setting yourself up for failure come test time. Paying attention in class isn’t always easy though, and you don’t have to have a diagnosed case of ADD or ADHD to suffer from temporary attention deficits.
Having a lot on your mind, feeling sleep deprived or hungry, or just being bored by the dull lecture your instructor prepared for the day, are just some of the many things that can compromise your concentration and rob you of the motivation and ability to learn new information. Fortunately, with a few proven concentration techniques, you can learn to master the art of paying attention in the classroom.
- prepare yourself mentally and physically
- sit near the front of the room
- take notes effectively
- keep a tidy workspace
- slouch in your chair
- allow negativity to creep in
- surround yourself with distractions
- berate yourself
Focus isn’t something that just happens naturally – at least not for most people. For the majority of us, focus requires both mental and physical preparation. Before you enter the classroom, clear your head of any worries or concerns about your personal life or even about other classes. Make a mental decision that for the next hour (or duration of the class period) you will think about the subject matter at hand and nothing else. You’ll be surprised to find that to a large extent, maintaining concentration is a choice that you make. You should also prepare yourself physically for the class period. This means grabbing a snack, getting a drink of water, going to the bathroom, and doing anything else necessary to ensure that your physical needs don’t jeopardize your ability to pay attention. Remember, this physical preparation process begins the night before by ensuring that you get a good night’s sleep, so you are alert enough to maintain optimal concentration during the day.
If you’re having trouble focusing in class, then the last thing you want to do is position yourself in the back of the room. There’s truth to the saying “out of sight, out of mind,” and the more difficult it is for you to see what’s going on at the front of the room, the harder it will be for you to maintain your concentration. If at all possible, find a seat near the front, so you can see and hear everything the teacher is saying. You’ll also benefit from your teacher’s gaze as well. Just knowing that she is watching you and may be able to tell whether or not she has your undivided attention will give you extra motivation to improve your focus. If you are currently assigned a seat at the back of the class, request a change in your seating arrangement and explain your reason for doing so. If your teacher knows that you are experiencing difficulty paying attention, she’ll most likely be happy to accommodate your request.
Many students perform better when they are actively doing something, rather than just sitting and listening. Good note-taking skills have benefits in their own right, but taking notes while the teacher is talking can have the added advantage of helping you remain engaged in the learning process. There is an art to such note-taking, however. Be sure that you are only writing down key points, rather than attempting to record everything the teacher says or writes on the board. If you focus too much on taking notes, it can detract from your ability to listen effectively, and you can easily find yourself falling behind.
A tidy workspace can help you focus in class by eliminating any possible distractions. Keep only what you absolutely need on your desk, such as paper, pencil, and your textbook. Anything else can make the area seem cluttered and inhibit your ability to pay attention to the teacher or assignment.
Sitting up straight in your chair not only makes you look like you’re paying attention, it can actually help you maintain your focus as well. In this position, you’ll be less likely to doze off during class, and in all likelihood, you’ll feel more alert and confident as well. These positive feelings can directly contribute to your classroom performance.
When faced with a particularly boring subject or lesson, it’s easy to let negative thoughts creep in. You may start thinking the class itself is pointless or begin asking yourself why school is so important to begin with. In such cases, it’s necessary to remain positive by reminding yourself of your personal and academic goals. Give yourself a mental pep talk and then guide your attention back to the lesson. Despite how dull you may find it, a single lesson can still have important implications for your future success.
Sitting beside a friend or positioning yourself near a window to gaze out of can be tempting, especially if you’re not looking forward to a specific class, but giving in to this temptation can backfire when it comes time to prove your knowledge on a test or other assessment. Be sure to eliminate as many distractions as necessary. This includes asking the teacher to move you away from a noisy fan, an open door, or anything else that takes your focus away from the lesson.
If you find yourself daydreaming during class despite your best efforts, don’t beat yourself up. Maintaining focus is difficult, and everyone has a bad day every now and then when it comes to paying attention. Self-pity and feelings of guilt won’t help the situation. When you find yourself drifting away, just get back on track with some of the concentration strategies you’ve learned. If you find your academic performance still suffering as a result of attention problems, tell your parents or see a doctor. You may have a disorder that’s to blame.
Trouble paying attention in class is common amongst students. After all, school isn’t always the most entertaining place to be. Nonetheless, maintaining a high degree of concentration is imperative to academic success. With some practical tips designed to increase focus, most students can enhance their attention capabilities and improve their grades as a result.