Multitasking in the Classroom

Why Avoid Multitasking?

In our everyday lives we are constantly bombarded with information, activities, and engagements that we can be involved in. For a majority of the day, we are each participating in multitasking in one form or another. Many times we are engaging in multitasking behaviors and do not even notice the distractions that are affecting us throughout the day. For students especially being involved in these distractors can impact their performance both inside and outside of the classroom. As educators, we must incorporate different methods to assist students with limiting the amount of multitasking they are involved in to ensure their success in the classroom.

Why Shouldn’t Students Multitask?


All around students are constantly surrounded by devices and platforms that can cause distractions. Social media, videos, video games, and other similar distractions are all readily present to students and can cause distractions while attempting to complete assignments. Many times students believe that they are able to multitask and complete multiple tasks successfully at once. But this is not the case! The brain is designed to limit conscious focus to one thing at any particular time. When we attempt to multitask and attempting to do multiple things at one time; rather than multitasking the brain is actually shifting its processing from one network to another. Each time that you shift from one task to another, you are wasting time, mental effort, and brain fuel. The use of multitasking can affect the effectiveness and productivity of students both inside and outside of the classroom. The consequences of task switching can include less work being completed, more time is required to complete assignments, and less information is retained. It is important that teachers emphasize single tasking rather than multitasking. Teachers should also provide students with methods to limit multitasking.

Limit Multitasking in the Classroom:

While in the classroom, teachers want students to be hard at work, courteous, and well-behaved. From time to time, teachers might find that students are distracted while in the classroom or multitasking. These distractions might include using cell phones or interruptive behaviors that might be demonstrated during class time. There are multiple techniques and methods that teachers can use to help students avoid multitasking and distractions and stay focused on the lesson.

Establish standards and expectations for student behavior and learning

As a teacher, it is important that you first establish a relationship with your students. Along with developing a relationship with your students, it is important that teachers are able to establish rules and expectations for the students. While in the classroom, students need to understand the rules that are in the place and the expectations that the teachers has for the students. Ensure that in the classroom, expectations and rules are made aware to the students. With this knowledge, students understand what the teachers expects to see from students. This should aid teachers in explaining to students how important attention is during lessons, in limiting distractions and inattention that might occur, and in diminishing the tendency of students to multitask.

Protect and Leverage Time

While teaching a lesson, teachers need to appropriately time and pace lessons in order to keep student engaged and interested. Teachers need to ensure that when presenting content, there is sufficient time for instruction and for students to practice the instructional methods. By providing students with sufficiently paced instruction and allowing student ample time to practice the concept present in instruction, teachers can increase student academic performance. Effective time planning can prevent the presence of ideal time thus limiting the possibility of student multitasking or distraction. By minimizing lost and idol time, teachers can attempt to keep students fully engaged in the lesson.

 Anticipate student behaviors

When teachers plan their lessons, it is important to keep in mind student interests, behaviors, and paths of attention that are required to acquire the content information. Teachers need to focus on what they are teaching and how students will be able to demonstrate their learning. In the lesson, teachers should include open ended questions that challenge student thinking. This should allow students to remain engaged in the lesson and the material being presented. In the lesson, teachers should utilize multiple methods of representation to provide the information to students. This method will allow the teachers to effectively meet the needs of multiple students in the classroom. Finally, teachers should also provide the students with a variety of opportunities to demonstrate the knowledge that they have acquired. By thinking about the behaviors of the students in the classroom prior to teaching the lesson, teachers are able to ensure that they have worked to meet the needs of each student. This should ensure that the students remain involved in the lesson, limit the amount of possible distractions, and diminish the occurrence of multitasking by the students in the classroom.

Differentiate instruction to keep students engaged. 

Schoolchildren bored in a classroom, during lesson.

Along with understanding student behaviors during the lessons, teachers also need to differentiate instruction in order to engage and challenge students with the material. When differentiating instruction, teachers can differentiate the content, process, or products in order to avoid multitasking or distractions during the lesson. When differentiating content teachers can use reading material at varying readability levels, use different vocabulary and spelling lists based on the level of the student, present ideas through different means, and use different methods of grouping students such as in pairs, small groups, or individually.When determining the process there are multiple methods and activities that can be used to assist in differentiating. Teachers can use tiered activities by using different levels of support, challenge, or complexity. Teachers can develop personal agendas to be completed either during individual study time or while in centers in the classroom. Teachers can provide manipulatives or hands on supports, and can use varying lengths of time depending on student need to complete the assigned material.

When considering the product that students are expected to present, teachers can differentiate the outcome based on the needs of the students. In the classroom, teachers can give students options of how to express the required learning. Teachers can use rubrics to assess and extend student learning. Teachers can vary the method of completing the product from individual to small groups. In each of these sections- content, process, and product- teachers are able to differentiate the material to ensure that students remained engaged and active in the learning experience. By gearing the planning, instruction, and product to the needs of the students can avoid the habit of multitasking. By providing planned and differentiated instruction to their individual needs, the teacher can attempt to prevent students from multitasking by challenging their thinking and providing support where necessary.

A cute African American schoolboy thinking while looking away

Provide students with brain breaks throughout the day

As teachers, there is a lot of material that needs to be covered and instruction that needs to be provided throughout the school day. Though there is a lot that must be taught, teachers cannot forget to provide students with opportunities to relax, recharge, and reenergize during instruction. At different points throughout the day, teachers should allow students to take breaks to reenergize and refocus. These breaks can include simple tasks such as allowing students to stretch or walk around the classroom. These break can also include using websites such as GoNoodle to allow students to dance and sing along to videos. Any of these options would allow students to reenergize and refocus before presenting more information. By providing students with brain breaks, students are less likely to become distracted or to multitask during instruction.


Edutopia. (2016). Conquering the multitasking brain drain [Photograph]. Retrieved from search?biw=1777&bih=882&tbm=isch&sa=1&ei=_3rzWevzEcjLjwTh3rDYCg&q=multitasking+edutopia&oq=multitasking+edutopia&gs_l=psy-ab.3…6008.8613.0.8812.….0…1.1.64.psyab..0.8.721…0j0i67k1j0i24k1j0i10i24k1j0i8i30 k1.0.r-C4sP0kJBQ#imgrc=qNjtCOeN1JF3zM

Freepik. (2016). Smiling students paying attention in class. Retrieved from:

Johnson, B. (2016, September 2). The 5 priorities of classroom management. Retrieved from Edutopia website:

Tomlinson, C. A. (n.d.). What is differentiated instruction. Retrieved from

Willis, J. (2016, October 25). Conquering the multitasking brain drain. Retrieved from

Edutopia website:




Katelynn Brown

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