Being alert in class is essential to learning
and performance. Students who can sustain appropriate levels of
alertness are characterized as being vigilant or fully engaged
in school activities, for example, when attending to a lecture,
reading a text book, writing a report, or solving mathematical
problems. Students who effectively control their alertness are
able to concentrate without becoming mentally fatigued (especially
when sitting still and/or listening for long periods of time),
and to pay attention without feeling excessively “ bored”
Here are some strategies to develop and
strengthen students’ alertness controls.
- Adjust the rate, complexity, and/or volume
of information that must be attended to (or processed) at any
one time. For example, tape recorders and books on tape are
excellent tools teachers can use to slow the rate of presentation
down, to allow for repetition of important information, etc.
- Modify your schedule so that tasks that require
a great deal of effort are planned for periods when students
have adequate or high levels of alertness.
- Give student advanced warning before being
called on in class (e.g., In three minutes I am going to ask
you to answer the first two questions on the board. Tomorrow,
I will ask you to recap this lesson).
- Provide frequent breaks during the day. Breaks
between activities may have a purpose such as collecting papers,
assisting the teacher in getting ready for the next activity
by passing out materials, erasing the board, or writing objectives
on the board. You can also make breaks during lessons instructionally
relevant by having students talk to each other about how well
they are doing, list one or more facts or skills they are learning,
or what strategies they are using to complete the task.
- Encourage students to use stretching and
walking around as ways to revitalize themselves. Getting the
blood flowing more evenly throughout the body results in more
oxygen being carried to the brain, and thus in feeling more
- Periodically shift formats, for example,
mixing lectures with reading, hands-on activities, and discussions.
- Use visual or verbal cues, or touch a student
lightly to communicate that his/her alertness is diminished.
Adjust seating arrangements, such as table clusters or staggered
desks to allow the student an unobstructed view of signals and
to give you access for making subtle contact or gestures.
- Provide students with time to pursue high
interest activities that may serve to enhance their alertness.
For example, set aside a space in the classroom where students
can go to strengthen their strengths and exploit their affinity
area for gaining expertise (e.g., Jonathon’s Art Station,
Joanna’s Model Car Area, Louisa’s Web of Spiders).