Causes and Cures for Classroom Boredom
Your child trudges home from another day at school. “How was your day?” you ask.
“Bor-ing,” comes the reply. “I was yawning in math. I was doodling in science. The teacher just kept going on and on and on in history.”
You may have experienced such apathy in a student and felt the indifference or malaise that can manifest in daydreams, yawns, and even misbehavior. Now, as parents, we have once again met a prime enemy of education and it is classroom boredom.
“As predictable as the rising sun, unengaged students misbehave, break rules, and seek fulfillment in less-than-acceptable ways,” says teacher and author Michael Linsin, who has written extensively on the subject.
What causes boredom?
For overachievers, it can be the pace of teaching. These students already know the material and can’t wait to move ahead. Their need to be challenged is simply not being met.
For others, it could be a lack of interest in the subject, but just as likely, a lack of understanding of the topic. They can easily feel lost or helpless, not knowing where to even start on a project or writing assignment. For these students, solutions might range from creating curiosity about the topic to spending additional time on the lesson, creating that level of understanding which will breed success.
Homeschool blogger Sheryl Maxey calls boredom “the enemy of learning.” She lists four ways in which boredom sets in, even when the student might originally seem engaged with a topic: a lack of relevance to real life, improper pace in teaching the lesson material, little deviation from daily classroom routine, and failure to mix hands-on experience with lessons in book form.
Listing “Eight Things Teachers Do to Cause Boredom,” Linsin says that sometimes students sit too long, teachers talk too much, and instructors make comprehension difficult by complicating simple lessons. “When students get bored, their minds drift,” he says. “Boredom equals misbehavior. . . . If you can’t grab their attention and enchant them with your lessons and teaching style, you’re going to lose them to boredom and disinterest.”
As parents, what can we do about the yawning and doodling?
For one, foster a good, working relationship with your child’s teacher. Stay in tune with what’s going on at school. If your student is bored because the material is strictly review, express that to the teacher. If the instructor is moving too rapidly and your child is falling behind, the teacher needs to know that as well. If not, things could easily snowball.
Sometimes the cures can be relatively simple.
Linsin suggests tapping into four “desires” that nearly every student possesses: adventure, laughter, challenge, and fascination.
In his 2010 article “Boredom in the Classroom,” Mohammed Rhalmi wrote: “Boredom is one of the greatest enemies of successful learning. This happens, mainly, when students predict what will happen next in the classroom.”
For students who are dramatically ahead of their classmates, parents might suggest that the teacher put that student’s knowledge and proficiency to use as a peer tutor, assisting classmates who might appreciate a hand in getting up to speed.
Here are some other cures that you might discuss with your student’s teacher and employ to engage your student in the subject matter at home.
- Add an activity: Howtosmile.org is a must-see source for hands-on ideas, particularly for math and science projects and activities.
- Give ‘Em a Break: Let students stand, stretch, sing or even dance, as suggested by Nicholas Sella at neatoday.org. A few jumping jacks can go a long way.
- Provide discussion time: Don’t simply teach from the book or assign readings. Talk about the subject matter and how it applies in real life.
- Create something: Build something or have students draw or write about the device they would build if they could to make life better. Create curiosity when possible.
- Energize: Keep students hydrated with water breaks and energized with occasional bites of healthy snacks.
- Mix it up: Vary the routine. Think about teaching different subjects at different times, changing the classroom venue or injecting a YouTube or educational video into the lesson.
Remember that boredom, should it prevail, is never an excuse for rudeness or misbehavior.
Fortunately, online students rarely suffer from boredom, in part because the curriculum is tailored to them. Motivated, inspired, confident, they feel satisfaction and a part of the learning process that’s more focused on their natural curiosity and aspirations than passing a test. To replace boredom with a freedom to explore, visit K12.
Seth Livingstone is a veteran writer and editor who has spent much of his career in sports journalism covering multiple Olympic Games, Super Bowls, World Series, and Daytona 500s. He covered the Boston Red Sox throughout the 1980s and 1990s before joining USA Today and Baseball Weekly in 1999. He maintains his membership in the Baseball Writers Association of America and is a Hall of Fame voter. Seth holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Northeastern University and has also worked as a substitute teacher (all grades and subjects). He lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and has two grown children.
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