How to Wake Up a Sleeping Student: 10 Fun & Funny Methods

sleeping students

I get it. I’m an old, boring English teacher—the kind that kids will look back on when they’re older and think, “Wow, that guy was bor-ring!” But listening to To Kill a Mockingbird on an audiobook isn’t very thrilling for fifteen-year-olds. It’s not even my fault; I’m told to teach that sleeping pill to students and it works miracles. In fact, it could be rebranded as a remedy to help put students to sleep right away.

In truth, I’m at my most entertaining when things go a little sideways in class. I see education as intrinsically valuable, and I have a difficult time understanding why others don’t. Almost all things are interesting: English, science, trying to fix the CLS issues on this blog. It’s all a siren’s song. So, I don’t feel the need to be an entertainer… not until students fall off the proverbial learning wagon. Then it’s open season. 

Open mic? 


My Ten Ways to Wake Up Sleeping Students

Here are my ten fun ways to wake up kids who have fallen asleep in class. These are meant to be fun and good-natured—and perhaps a little embarrassing—but in a good way.

1. The Phantom Whisperer

Lean in close(ish) to the student and whisper random, nonsensical phrases in their ear. If it’s related to the content, even better! “In To Kill a Mockingbird 2, the ghost of Tom Robinson gets his revenge!” “Semi-colons have inferiority complexes!”

2. The Surprise Serenade

Waking a sleeping student method 2: Surprise Serenade

Gather a few classmates and burst into a spontaneous song right next to the sleeping student. “I got a feelin’. This class is gonna be good class…” (Will-I-Am, what horrible grammar you have.)

3. The Great Drop Caper

Casually “drop” something heavy next to the student’s desk. It needs to create a sudden sound to startle them awake.

4. The Compliment Conundrum

Loudly compliment the student’s outfit, hairstyle, penmanship, or whatever. Be nice about it, though. Don’t be sarcastic. Like, don’t mock the stinky kid: “You smell sooooo good.”

5. The Airhorn or Whistle Symphony

Wake a Sleeping Student #5: The Airhorn Symphony

Use with caution! Let out a short, surprising blast from an airhorn or whistle. Bonus points if it’s a bear horn.

6. Earthquake!

This is one of my favorites. I gently shake the desk and claim that, “Whoa, there’s an earthquake.” It causes quite a bit of confusion.

7. The Trivia Teaser

Quietly ask simple trivia question to the student. The goal is to get them to answer in their sleep. Maybe they’ll even do some subconscious learning.

8. Leave and Let Sleep

Quietly evacuate the class, turn off the lights and let them sleep. The goal is to see if you can get everyone out of there without waking up the student.

9. The Creepy Crawly

If the student isn’t too squeamish, have a fellow classmate place a harmless plastic spider or insect on their desk.

10. The Puppet Master

Keep a sock puppet in your drawer just for such occasions! Use fun baby voices to ask questions like, “Are you enjoying your nappy nap?” Start reading a bedtime story or tell them a nursery rhyme.


There you have it – a guide to waking up drowsy students that’s as entertaining as it is effective. While I’d prefer my students stay awake by the sheer power of my riveting lessons (ahem), sometimes a little humor is the best teaching tool. So, next time you see a head nodding off in your classroom, don’t stress. Embrace the chaos, try one of these tactics, and remember, a good laugh can be just as valuable as a good lesson.

Just a word of caution: choose your method wisely, considering your students’ personalities and your school’s culture. And remember, always be kind and respectful. After all, we’ve all been there – fighting to keep our eyes open during a particularly dull lecture.

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