Teachers: What to do when your students look blank or are distracted?One can demand students attention or be more interesting. You are probably already do this!
What if you understood why students look blank or are not there? Then you can really do something about it!
Let's get personal. The next time you read a page and then realized you have no idea what you just read; go back to where you were doing well and look for a word or symbol you did not fully understand. It will probably be just at the end of where you felt you were doing well but could be earlier.
Just spotting the word or symbol will be a relief. In a good dictionary find the definition that applies to the context. Make sure you understand all the words in the definition or use an easier dictionary. Create sentences with this meaning till you really have the concept. You should also do this with all the rest of the definitions and the other data in the dictionary to fully understand the word. There are more details in the book Learning How to Learn
If this works for you; you can apply it in the classroom:
When the students start to look blank and not there; ask them what words they have not understood.
Provide word lists of all the words that might not be understood with definitions before each lecture.
I got this data from a book called Learning How to Learn.
How valuable is this data? There was a teacher in Texas who taught at the school in the poorest neighborhood in his school district. The school's test results were always the worst in the district. The teacher lectured from Learning How to Learn for the first two weeks of the year to all his classes. He did this two years in a row. By doing this he reached a third of the student body at his middle school and improved the test results of the entire school. His advanced placement classes were broken out and they outperformed the entire school district. Click here for more details.