***Don’t miss Dr. Lisa Leith’s webinar, “Common Core Standards: Equity and Opportunities” on January 31st!***
Guest post by Dr. Lisanne Pluth, PhD
Attention spans or a lack of focused attention is something that hampers almost every educator in the K-12 grades. A good attention span is like a high tech LED HDMI cable between the teacher and the student. This is a powerful connection and it is essential to learning. Class sizes are growing due to tight budgets making it increasingly difficult to get and keep students’ attention. Attention spans may also be shrinking due to the influence of media and television on the brains of small children. Simply put, without adequate attention spans it is often difficult to get anything done in the classroom.
Remove or Limit Distractions
Many children, no matter what their age have never been shown how to focus their attention. Younger children are more prone to easy distraction but even children in the 10-12th grades may become easily distracted and this can negatively affect their ability to focus and learn new tasks.
One way to increase attention spans is to make students aware of the powerful impact distractions can have on their performance both in the classroom and at home. By simply setting up roll play situations where students are given a simple task and then are constantly interrupted by other students it is possible to help students become aware of distractions. Using stopwatches to time undistracted vs. interrupted performance tasks easily helps students see the difference in their own learning abilities when distracted. Roll play can be made fun with the introduction of real life distractions such as people, cell phones and music.
One of the central reasons children often lose attention is that there is a significant lack of motivation to maintain focus. Children seldom have attention span problems with computer games because the games are constantly giving the child positive reinforcement in the form of winning rounds and points to continue playing the game. Most games are also set to cycle at quick intervals so that positive reinforcement comes quickly. Moreover, additional challenges always follow positive reinforcement.
Using this same plan of attack will often work well with students that have trouble maintaining focus. The motivation and positive reinforcement can take many forms including praise for good work, scores, extra playtime and funny jokes. Different educators use rewards in a variety of ways to keep the game going. The key here is to follow the gaming framework and keep momentum moving.
Breaking Tasks into Chunks
Any teacher who has taught for a long time automatically divides and conquers. If there is a set curriculum that is too large they will automatically break it down into appropriate chucks for their students. Sometimes just reorganizing a complicated or tedious section of the curriculum makes it much more manageable. When tasks seem possible it is much easier for students to focus and concentrate their attention.
Laughing is Fun but Learning is Serious Business
Teachers are constantly balancing teaching and learning with keeping control of the classroom. Sometimes a serious voice is very helpful for increasing focus and maintaining attention from a group of students. Instilling urgency is another way to focus attention. Timed performance followed by reward helps students learn how to focus their attention and stay motivated while learning.
Learning how to focus and lengthen one’s attention span is one of the most important and least taught skills in K-12 education. By making your students aware of their own power to focus educators can give them a skill that will carry them forward to be successful in college and throughout life.
Dr. Lisanne Pluth, PhD works as a Broadcast Manager for Resident Hall Linens. Her experience also includes teaching at both the University of Kansas and the University of San Diego.
***Register TODAY for Dr. Lisa Leith’s webinar, “Common Core Standards: Equity and Opportunities” on Jan 31st!***