Workshops for Teachers: Part 3: How Do You Fit it All In?

by | Jul 24, 2023 | 1 Minute Mastery, Getting and Keeping Attention, Professional Development For Teachers | 0 comments

The best workshops for teachers are filled with practical solutions to problems like keeping students attention. How can a teacher get and keep students’ attention?  In the first part of this series, we addressed the question of how a teacher can tell when she has held onto her class’s attention for  as long as possible and they need a break. Once you know the students need a break, in part two of this series, we discussed the what…what do you do to give them a break?  In that article we discussed the concept of state changes, and gave several examples of state changes to get you started.

In this article, we will give you some ideas of how to fit all of this into your already crowded teaching day, so you can maximize the amount of on-task teaching time with the students,

Workshops for Teachers: How do you fit it all in?

State changes may sound like a great idea, but with all of the content you have to cover, you don’t have time to waste on playing little games with the students. I would suggest that in order to learn something, the students must get the information into their brains. If they don’t get it in their brains, it is out of their brains. Out is out. They can’t study it, add to it or recall it for a test.  They have to be paying attention during a lesson to get the information into their brains.  If you have lost their attention anyway, it seems prudent to find a way to get them back on track and paying attention, so the information can be assimilated by the students. A state change isn’t wasting time, it’s investing time into creating the optimal conditions for students to learn.

In best workshops for teachers, like the ones presented by 212 CreativEd, teachers are given practical solutions to common classroom challenges. To get you started, here are four ways to fit state changes seamlessly into your daily classroom routine: as part of a lesson, as a parentheses in a lesson, as part of your rituals and routines in the classroom, and finally during natural breaks in the learning.

Part of a Lesson

Learning does not have to completely stop to do a state change. Remember, a state change is a change in the students thoughts, feelings, or physiology.  You could simply add some variety to your lesson for an effective state change. For example, If you are always lecturing with a powerpoint presentation, you may want to consider some cooperative learning activities to not only keep the learning going, but actually increase students retention by having them process the information during an activity.

One of my favorite and easiest ways to give students a state change while also providing them with an opportunity to process the information you just taught them is to do a quick review. I call it TTYN, which stands for Turn To Your Neighbor.  When you notice the students need a break, you stop teaching, have the students stand up, pair up with another student, and have them take turns processing the lesson. Maybe you can ask them to reteach it to each other, or have them go back and forth telling their partner one thing they learned in the lesson.  Just the act of standing up will refresh their attentional systems by changing their physiology, and having some social interaction is also a state change, as it will change their thoughts and feelings.  After a minute, have the students sit back down.


Sometimes, it is worth just stopping everything and having the students get active with their learning. I was conducting an all-day workshops for teachers in a school district a few years ago.  Over half of the group were young teachers in their early 20’s.  Knowing that they had a workshop the next day and no students, many of them had chosen to stay up late and have a night on the town.  When I hit them with my chipper energy at 8:00 a.m. they were polite, but just incapable of meeting my energy.  After 10 minutes or so of trying to engage them, I just paused, and mentally inserted a parenthesis into the presentation. I just stopped teaching and had them do some high energy activities for about a minute and a half. When we got back to the lesson, I had a group that was much more receptive to learning. I know I took away a little time from the lesson, but as the old saying goes “It’s easier to ride a horse in the direction it’s going”.  If I had not stopped and facilitated the group into a better, more optimal state for learning, it would have been an exhausting day for me, and a wasted day for the students.  

If you do need to insert a parentheses in a lesson, the goal for a state change would be to have the students get students up, get moving, and do an activity in a large group. For some ideas on what kind of activities to do, check out Classroom Activators, 2nd edition for some great ideas.

Ritual and routine

If you can make state changes a natural part of your day, you can keep the learning going and keep their attention at the same time by making it part of the rituals and routines of your classroom.  A ritual is something that doesn’t happen very often, and doesn’t change much. Examples of a classroom ritual might be how your class welcomes new students or says goodbye to students who are leaving.  A routine is something that happens often, maybe several times a day, and can change all of the time.  An example of a classroom routine would be how you get in and out of groups, how you line up to leave the classroom, or how you conduct a lesson.

Here are two ideas to get you started, both have to do with breathing. Remember, our brains run on empty. They don’t store any oxygen or fuel, so have to have a constant, steady supply of both through the bloodstream.  You can take advantage of this to do a physiological state change many times throughout the day.

If you have students getting up and talking in groups, you can facilitate the ending of the activity and getting the sitting again by creating a routine state change.  I call it In, Out, Down.  I give them a Yellow Light to get them to stop the activity. After they have given their partner an acknowledgement, I have all students take a deep breath, then slowly let it out. Then I have them take another deep breath, and as they slowly release their breath, they sit down all together.

You can also have a routine state change with breathing if you have students read out loud together.  I call this state change In, Out, Turn.  If all students are reading along in their books, when you get to the end of a page, ask the students to take a deep breath in, and as they slowly let it out, have them all turn to the next page at the same time.

Natural breaks

The last way to fit in state changes without disrupting the flow of the teaching is during natural breaks.  Even during a workshops for teachers, a natural break might occur when you are done with a lesson, or have completed a unit or chapter.  Instead of just plunging ahead into the next project, lesson or chapter without a break, try inserting a quick state change.  The one I suggest I call One Song Break. When you are ready for the break, put on a short, high energy piece of music and give the students some rules:  They can’t sit down until the song is over, they can’t run around and they can’t leave the room. Whatever guidelines work for you. At the end of the song, they are sitting down, refreshed and ready to learn. 

I usually use a pop song from the 1960’s.  Many songs of that era by the Beatles for example are only two minutes long, upbeat, with no offensive language.  Many students are familiar with those songs as well from movies and commercials.

There are four ideas for you to try to get state changes incorporated into your daily teaching routine, while keeping the learning going!  Enjoy!  If you would like practical, research-based ideas like this every week, and for more ideas on getting and keeping attention, connecting and engaging with students, facilitating groups, teaching and the learning environment and teacher self care, or if you need a SCHECH quickly,  check out our innovative teacher development program 1 Minute Mastery! At 212 we also offer onsite workshops for teachers!