How long can we expect a student stay focused?


If your students start looking like the one above or like this, you know you have surpassed that student’s attention span.

Studies have shown that students stay focused anywhere from 5 – 30 minutes before their minds begin to wander. The usual 45 – 60 minute scheduled class period need not be considered too long if used effectively.

Tips for teachers to help students maintain focus and retain information.

  1. Prior to class write down your goals. What is it you want the students to come away with from this class period? (i.e. What is the difference between a fruit and a vegetable?)
  2. List key words on the board related to your discussion topic (i.e. roots, leaves, photosynthesis, flowers, pollen, ovules, fruit, seeds, pollination). Explain that students should write these terms in their notebooks as each one is introduced in the lecture and add important details as they are explained.
  3. Mark a check next to each term as you finish discussing it.
  4. Lecture for 10-20 minutes (adjust time depending upon student age and focusing ability)before pausing to get student responses. Ask questions to be sure students are grasping the content and have recorded enough details for their later reference (when preparing for a test).
  5. Take a 5 minute break. Students should be encouraged to get up, walk around, get something to drink, etc. As the teacher, you may even lead the class in a stretching exercise.
  6. If time allots repeat step 4.
  7. Leave time to summarize and ask questions to ensure you have reached your goal.  (i.e. Hold up a tomato, stalk of celery, a carrot, etc.  Call on different students to identify fruits or vegetables. Ask another to explain where plants get energy to produce food for growth? What is the difference between a fruit and a vegetable?)

While you might not complete the explanation of all the terms you have listed on the board, you will feel more confident that the students have remained focused and taken away the information you wanted to impart. There’s always tomorrow to continue.

Good luck! And please share your comments, questions and suggestions.

Next post: Thursday, October 22, 2015