Rules for capturing and retaining people’s attention

Today’s blog post is an excerpt from a classic book on teaching that should be in your personal library. I 41nx8u0rjl-_sx322_bo1204203200_highly recommend John Milton Gregory’s The Seven Laws of Teaching.

In the chapter title The Law of the Learner, Gregory discusses the importance of capturing people’s attention before beginning a Bible study. He says, “Since attention follows interest, it is folly to attempt to gain attention without first stimulating interest.”

He goes on to say there are two great hindrances to attention: apathy and distraction. Apathy is related to a person’s general disinterest in the topic at hand. Distraction is the division of a person’s attention between several competing things. Out of this law of the learner emerges some important rules of teaching:

  1. Never begin a class exercise until the attention of the class has been secured. Study for a moment the faces of the pupils to see if all are mentally, as well as bodily, present.
  2. Pause whenever the attention is interrupted or lost, and wait until it is completely regained.
  3. Never wholly exhaust the attention of your pupils. Stop as soon as signs of fatigue appear.
  4. Adapt the length of the class exercise to the ages of the pupils. The younger the pupils, the briefer the lesson.
  5. Arouse attention when necessary by variety in your presentation, but be careful to avoid distractions; keep the real lesson in view.
  6. Kindle and maintain the highest possible interest in the subject. Interest and attention react upon each other.
  7. Appeal whenever possible to the interests of your pupils.
  8. Look for unusual sources of distraction, and minimize them.
  9. Prepare beforehand thought-provoking questions.
  10. Make your presentation as attractive as possible, using illustrations and all legitimate devices. Do not, however, let these devices be so prominent as themselves to become sources of distraction.

To buy a copy of this classic book for teachers, click here to go to its page on


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