I think encouraging a students can be one of the more difficult things to, however, everyone enjoys praise so not all is lost. In most situations I think students just need to know that you truly believe in their ability, because many times you may be the only one who does. Reminding students of past success such as a previous paper or reminding them of an activity they enjoyed, and likening it to the current situation can be hugely beneficial. In a group setting I think good a good motivation is the promise of sharing out what has been learned in the lesson that day.
When students become sluggish, often times the case after lunch or in the afternoon, I think your best bet is to do something active. Whether planned or not, I think group activities where students interact always infuse a classroom with energy. Additionally, upbeat music will move the most stout of hearts to movement.
When trying to refocus students the important thing is to remember that your lesson must somehow apply to their lives. When refocusing students I have found it’s useful to use allegory to help get students back into the lesson. This can take many forms, but my favorite ways are likening a lesson to pop-culture or a drawn out story that grabs their attention. Everyone likes a story and will be drawn in and in the end you will inform your students in what way it relates to the lesson at hand.
Every person, regardless of age, likes to have their accomplishments noted. To this effect I think students need it even more as it helps motivate them and gives them something to aim for. I think if a students does well on something, they should be invited to share what they have done with a quick presentation to the class. The advantage of this is grades aren’t shared so individual accomplishments, regardless of measurement, are celebrated. Further, this would insure that every student at some point gets to have their work acknowledged by everyone in the classroom.
This is more of a way to avoid having to recompose rather than an way to actually do it, but I think good lesson planning with back up plans goes a long way to helping a class run smoothly. As long as a lesson is solid and really engages students the chances of someone getting off track and indulging in negative behavior is slim. However, if it does happen despite your best efforts I think a good way to deal with these situations is to talk to them directly. We should never forget our students are human so we should try to treat them with dignity and respect whenever possible. If someone is acting up we should try and find out why as oppose to simply trying to stop it.
I’m a firm believer in “bell ringer” exercises. These in essence are an activity you have students complete every day upon entering the classroom. Ideally they will always apply to the lesson for that day and will jump start the students thinking about the topic at hand. This exercise is also useful because it helps students focus and prepare for the class rather than talking to their friends or engaging in other behavior that might distract them from their learning.
When I’m teaching I would like to host an open house every semester in which students display what they have learned to parents, teachers, and each other. In essence it would function somewhat like a talent show where a wide array of abilities and talent are on display, only with learning being the central theme to it all. I think this would benefit both students and their parents as it would motivate the former to work towards an end goal while allowing the latter to see what their students have been up for several months.