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Little Tricks to Stay Focused in Class

Let’s face it: Keeping alert in class can be tricky, especially if you have one of those pesky 8 a.m.’s and spent the previous night working late on a paper and APA reference list. While an extra-large coffee might be your go-to for those days you’re especially tired, sometimes caffeine alone can’t do the trick.

Below are tips to help you stay focused in class even on those days when all you want is to go back to bed.


A trick to avoiding plagiarism and saving time on making citations? Use the citing tools at BibMe.org to create MLA citations, APA references, or a Chicago style citation.


Sit near the front of the classroom

It’s tempting to grab a seat near the back of the lecture hall but, you’ll find yourself more alert if you sit near the front where you can easily hear and see your professor. If it’s a 200-person seat auditorium, there’s no need to snag a spot in the first row, but try sitting somewhere in the front half of the classroom.

Put away your phone (and laptop)

Nothing is more distracting than getting notifications for texts, emails, and social media. Put your phone away for class, and try taking notes with a pen and paper instead of on your computer. If you must use a laptop for note taking, put your computer on “do not disturb” to avoid notifications.

Do the assigned reading beforehand

It’s easy to fall behind on course reading — especially if you know you won’t be tested on the material — but you’ll be much more engaged in class if you’re familiar with the subjects your professor is discussing. If you’re having an especially busy week, take the time to at least skim through the reading before you set foot in the classroom.

Bring a snack/drink

When your stomach’s rumbling, it’s hard to focus on anything other than food. Bring a reusable water bottle and a healthy snack — like a yogurt, granola or a banana with peanut butter — with you to class. If you don’t have time to cook a full breakfast prior to your morning class,  make sure to at least pack something light in your backpack the night before.

Get involved in the discussion

Whether there’s a participation grade for a course or not, make sure to contribute to the course discussion — it’s a great way to keep alert! Come up with questions you’d like to ask your professor, or answer questions your instructor poses.

Sit up straight

Good posture is a simple — but effective — way to improve your focus. Instead of slouching in your chair, try sitting up straight, with your feet firmly planted on the floor. You’ll find it’s much harder to get sleepy when sitting perfectly upright than when hunched over. On a similar note, don’t wear clothes that are too pajama-like to class. No need to get too dressed up, but it’s way more likely you’ll fall asleep when clad in sweats instead of jeans.

Chew gum

Ok, this sounds like a weird suggestion, but chewing gum can actually help you stay focused as it’s a repetitive act that stimulates blood flow. You can do other little things — like spinning a fidget spinner, popping mints or lightly tapping a pencil — to keep yourself awake throughout your early morning lecture.


If you’re taking an English class, why not brush up on how to use a verb, what is a common noun, a preposition definition, and more!