• Victoria Lentfer

Strategies for the Sleeping Student

We have all been there where we have that one student that always wants to sleep or be on their cell phone. It feels like we tried every strategy. We talked with them, tried to develop a relationship with them, incorporated their interests into the lesson. But let's face it, there are topics in our content areas that lack the entertainment value . . . yes, the content can be boring!

Does that mean you have to be boring? No, let's spark the imagination and have some fun!

Random Curve Ball

Throw a random picture of your dog into your PowerPoint. Get the students talking. This is actually one of the most powerful strategies. You may think it gets them off task, and yes, it does, but it does so in a counterintuitive way. You engage the student in a topic outside of school; then, you can ease into the content. This builds community as well. Plus, the students love to learn about their teacher outside of the classroom!


Be humble. Act like you may not know the material very well. Make a mistake on purpose and have students (try to get the student that is least likely to engage with you) correct you. Ask your students for help in understanding how to do something. You tricked them into being the teacher, which is such a powerful tool.

Short Lesson

Keep the lesson short. Get to the point quickly, then leave it. Consider teaching your boring material in short bursts, then move onto another more engaging topic during your lesson. Continue to do so throughout the week or a couple of weeks. You actually can teach a couple of topics within one class period.

Colors & Images

Colors, colored pencils, construction paper, any form of color will help with this. Yes, even with secondary students, this trick has a lasting impact. Use color, even if it means changing the color of your whiteboard markers. And, of course, use images. They are, as you know, worth a thousand words. Think beyond the four walls. Try bringing in a sketch pad and draw a picture as your students work. Yes, the picture you are drawing may not have anything to do with the content. Still, you are getting their focus off the boring material and focusing on you drawing a terrible stick figure as they are mustering through the material. This only has to last, at most, 10 minutes and then move onto another topic.


Anyone who knows me knows that movement plays a large part in engaging students and helps with memory. Movement can be having class outside, standing on their chairs reciting content, stretching, meditation - make it up as you go along. Do yoga poses between teaching concepts. What is important is to have fun with it and keep it simple. Use your worksheet, cut it up and post each portion to a different station to get students moving. Post it to the walls, carpet, and tables. It doesn't have to be pretty; get them moving.


I mean, how fun! What a great way to build community, and it only takes a few minutes. This takes some courage on your part, but start slow with a game of charades. Begin or end your lesson with this activity. It may or may not involve movement, but it energizes and builds community.

Remember, the simplest strategies are often the most powerful strategies. And the most outrageous can be the most lasting strategy!

Let me know your thoughts. I have had some great responses from past articles. Thank you for reading and responding. I appreciate you! Keep doing great work! :)

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