|Today’s teaching community faces many challenges – increasing class sizes, budget cuts, curriculum changes and a perhaps feeling that they lack support, to name just a few. Another, less talked-about challenge, however, involves teaching those who come to class tired, and therefore unmotivated and ill prepared for learning.In order for students to be successful at school, college or university, they need to come rested. After all, sleep is food for the brain. While the body sleeps, important brain activities and body functions occur that have an effect on growth, brain development, productivity and even mood. Although educators don’t have much control over what happens outside the classroom, there are some things that can be done to combat the challenges of teaching the tired.
Fighting the fatigue
As any parent will know, students across all age ranges lead incredibly busy lives. Between school, homework, sports, extra-curricular and social activities – both real and online, there’s not a lot of time left for much else. And unfortunately, sleep is sometimes the thing that takes a back seat.Here are some age-appropriate tips for managing sleepy students:
NHS Choices advise primary school-aged children (5 – 11 years) need between 9.5 and 11 hours of sleep per night. And what’s more, 65% of young children are ‘significantly sleep deprived’ according to psychologist Professor Tanya Byron. A morning routine that gives pupils immediate responsibilities upon entering the classroom may be just the trick to give slow-moving students that initial burst of energy needed to start the day. Hanging up coats and emptying book-bags and handing in homework are all simple activities that can be used to provide responsibility and routine. Rewards can help reinforce this behaviour – a quirky pen or Popper Crayon for those consistently following the routine can be a great prize.
As youngsters transition into their teen years, their sleep requirements change. Most teens need between 8.5 and 9.25 hours of sleep each night in order to be successful at school. However, their body’s sleep patterns are shifting, and they begin going to bed later – and unfortunately during term time – waking up later. Combine that with schools’ early start times, and the result is a noticeable sleep deficit. Instead of standing at the front of the room lecturing to tired, bleary-eyed students, encourage active involvement. Engage students through learning activities and group work. For example, if you’re teaching a lesson on nature, take a walk outside instead of learning from textbooks. Or, if you teach history, assign student groups to act out an important period you’re studying. Props can make the activity both fun and interactive.
Higher / Further Education
College students represent one of the most sleep-deprived segments of the population! One way to counter this is by keeping energy levels high; holding interactive discussions can help. Encourage students to pay attention and participate by facilitating active question-and-answer sessions. This keeps students alert and keeps the blood flowing. Also, don’t forget to educate students on the importance of a good night’s sleep. For example, at the start of term you could distribute Relaxation Kits printed with the benefits of sleep as well as tips and ideas for combating sleep deprivation.
Educating and reaching tired students can be a challenge. And there’s not a lot you can actually do to make students sleep more. Yet establishing a routine, promoting engagement and increasing interaction can help. So why not give one of these ideas a try and see if it makes a difference in your classroom.
References / Further Reading.
How Much Sleep NHS Choices.
Our Children Need an Earlier Bedtime The Telegraph.
How To Handle Sleepy, Unprepared, And Unmotivated Students Smart Classroom Management.