5 Ways to Keep Students Off Their Cell Phones in the Classroom

Graduate Programs for Educators
Graduate Programs for Educators

It’s not just kids — all of us are glued to our phones throughout the day. As an infinite source of news, information and entertainment, a cellphone is a powerful piece of technology. Schools are not always the most exciting places, making it nearly impossible for students to resist the urge to reach into their pockets and open up a browser or their favorite app. As teachers, we’ve all seen it. It can drastically reduce student engagement in an instant.

So, what can you do about cell phone use in the classroom? Here are five smart strategies you can try in your classroom to help students rethink the urge to use their phones during lessons.

1. Positive Reinforcement (extra credit)

By allowing students to voluntarily give up their phone at the beginning of class in exchange for additional credit, you create easy and effective positive reinforcement for students to not use them in class. Find a process that works well for your class that’s motivating enough to get kids to buy in, without giving away too many extra credit points.

2. Media in the Classroom

Phones can be an addictive source of news and entertainment. It makes it nearly irresistible to take it out of your pockets, especially while in the midst of a lesson that is less than exciting and engaging.

By finding ways to integrate more engaging forms of media, educational tools and even entertainment within your weekly lessons, you can help level with your students in a way that satiates their need to engage with their phones.

Knowing they are entering a lighter and more engaging classroom will help them put off their phone use to in between classes or even waiting until lunch (if your school allows it) or after school.

3. Establish Set Cell Phone Use Times (If Your School Allows It)

By creating a black-and-white phone use policy, your students may be less inclined to break the rules in your classroom. Establish set times within each class to use cellphones (if your school allows it)

This will help students resist the urge to use their phones discreetly during lessons.

4. Create a Dialogue (If Your School Allows It)

Once kids reach a certain age, it can be very challenging to convince them to do anything they do not want to. By working with students to generate a cooperative plan for classroom phone use (if your school allows it), you appeal to their sense individuality and freedom.

This is in addition to finding a solution to keep your students off of their cellphones during all hours of your weekly lessons. You may be surprised what your students come up with when given the power to flex their democratic muscles.

By showing trust in your students, you engage them and empower their decision-making abilities.

5. Performance-based cellphone use

If the argument is that cellphone use is going to distract students from learning, then it makes sense to ensure that students who aren’t performing well in your classroom should certainly not be allowed to distract themselves during a lesson by using their cellphones.

However, if students are performing well, then you have proof that they are responsible enough to use their cellphones and still digest your lessons and put in the time after school to study. Reward students over a certain percentage or grade to have access to their cellphones during class.

Strongly urge, if not discipline, students who are under your set benchmarks not to use their cellphones. This will encourage struggling students to pay attention in class and improve their grades, as well as motivate those same students to improve their grade and reclaim their privileges of using their cellphone freely.

If you are struggling to get your students to pay attention in class and wean them away from their cellphones, feel free to try one of these five techniques. As a teacher, you should know your students, and you can even develop strategies outside of those mentioned here.

The most important thing to remember is how to engage your students in your class that they will choose learning over their cellphones.

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