Your Study Guides and Strategies starts here!

The first thing obvious
to children
is what is sensible
William Penn, 1644 – 1718
American Quaker philosopher

Classroom learning series

Paying attention in the classroom

If you have difficulty paying attention to what is happening in your classrooms,
Click on the text to begin to avoid the scene!


  • Try to anticipate the main ideas of the coming lecture:
    Look over your notes of the previous lecture and read the course material.
    If you have questions about material from the previous class or text, ask the instructor before class about them
    Prepare a few questions
    you expect to be answered on new material if possible
  • Resist distractions
    by sitting in front of the room away from disruptive classmates and by focusing on the instructor through active listening and note taking
  • Put yourself in the "mood" with
    attentive expression and posture; do not sprawl
  • Shift position in your seat every so often
    Don't sit frozen in one position
    Shifting on occasion will help keep the blood circulating, 
    send more oxygen to your brain, and help you remain alert
  • When appropriate: ask a question, ask for more clarity,
    or engage an instructor and the class in dialogue
  • Train yourself not to give in to distractions

The Spider Technique

Hold a vibrating tuning fork next to a spider web. The spider will react and come looking for what is vibrating the web. Do it several times and the spider "wises up" and knows there's no bug and doesn't come looking.

You can learn that.  When someone enters the room, or when a door slams, do not allow yourself to participate. Rather, keep your concentration on what's in front of you.

Form a tunnel between you and the lecturer

  • Practice letting people move or cough without having to look at them - just let them "be out there" as you focus on what is being taught
  • When talking with someone, keep your attention on that person, look at his face, and note what is being said. Let the rest of the world just be "out there."
  • Use the Be here now technique to help you regain concentration when you do become distracted momentarily.
Classroom learning series

Preparing for the classroom | Class "prep"/paying attention |
Classroom discussions | Taking notes in lectures | Influencing teachers |
Interviewing for class projects | Consent form for interviews |
Problem based learning | Using guided notes

Adapted with permission from Help Yourself, University Counseling Services, Kansas State University
See also: J. R. Hayes, The Complete Problem Solver, Franklin Institute Press, 1981
Flash exercise contributed by Mike Grinberg and Dr. Brad Hokanson, Interactive Media (DHA 4384) School of Design, University of Minnesota.