Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Ways to prevent zoning out in class

Although the reasons for zoning out in class may vary for students, there are some techniques that work for many students so that they can stay focused.  All of the techniques have active learning in common.

  1. Sit where you will be less distracted by hallway noise or classmates who chatter during class.   

  2. Avoid the back rows in a large lecture hall.  These seat choices can be deadly because students feel less part of the class and tend to not pay attention.

  3. Ask a question in class to stay engaged in the discussion.  If you are well-prepared you will not have to worry about whether it is a "dumb" question.

  4. Volunteer in class rather than sitting on the sidelines.  Participation makes it impossible to zone out.

  5. Whenever the professor calls on another student, answer the question silently in your head.  Compare your answer with the other student's answer and listen/watch for the professor's reaction.  You will be an active listener using this technique.

  6. Avoid distracting yourself by surfing the net, emailing, or playing solitaire.

  7. Prepare thoroughly for class and review for 1/2 hour before class.  You will be less likely to become confused during class.  And, you will be more confident about volunteering or asking questions.

  8. List four or five questions that you hope the professor will answer during class so that you stay engaged listening for those answers.

  9. If you take notes on your laptop but are a visual learner, keep a pad handy so that you can convert information into visuals that occur to you during class.  You can also capture the professor's graphics more easily. 

  10. Get enough sleep during the week.  You should aim for 7 hours minimum.  Tiredness can cause you to zone out very easily.

  11. Avoid distractions that you can control.  Wear layers so that you can adjust for classrooms that are too warm or too cold.  Carry light snacks to eat before class so that hunger will not distract you.  Stay hydrated so thirst does not have you wishing for the end of the hour.

Professors often draw out legal nuances in class discussion that students miss because they were not paying attention.  I even talk to students who missed out on discussion about the exam that other classmates clearly heard in class. 

Becoming a better listener is an essential skill in law school.  It is also essential in practice.  (Amy Jarmon)   

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