How to Help Students Remain Focused
- Mar 30, 2015
Room 327 at the PS 503 The School of Discovery in Brooklyn, New York beheld an astounding sight. On a warm day in May, thirty third graders were seated silently, buried in their books, reading independently. The silence was broken at times by an occasional chuckle or a sigh when the students came across a particular situation in the book, reading independently. The silence was broken at times by an occasional chuckle or a sigh when the students came across a particular situation in the books they were reading.
This lasted for fifty whole minutes, when the teacher finally chimed the bell signaling the end of the reading session. “What? No way! That felt like 10 minutes!”, the students gasped. They didn’t want the session to end. Seems like a concocted tale, right? Well, that’s where you are mistaken. This is very much true. Getting students to focus is an uphill battle for most teachers. Research has revealed that children aged between 6 and 8 years have an average attention span of 15-20 minutes. And this reduces to a meager 5-10 minutes for kids of kindergarten age.
However, when done the right way, helping students to remain focused can work out amazingly well. Here’s how.
Set goals before beginning lessons
Having set goals prior to beginning a lesson allows for a much more focused and fruitful studying session. You can encourage students to decide what they want to accomplish by the end of their study time. An example of the same would be: “I am going to complete revising this chapter and answer the accompanying questions. I will finish this within an hour and a half and feel good about the fact that I have managed to complete this within time and with complete focus.” Writing out the plan could also prove to be quite effective since this will give them a concrete base as to what they wish to achieve.
Implement active learning strategies
Active learning techniques include activities that encourage student involvement in learning and thinking about things they are doing. Interactive learning activities could also include scope for active participation of students in class, group studies, assessment of student comprehension during lectures, encouraging student communication during the course of lessons and so on. In addition to helping them focus, such learning techniques can be used to engage students in:
- Thinking creatively
- Reflecting about learning processes
- Retaining the concepts learned
Here’s one activity for kids – you can read out from a list of animals and ask your students to clap each time they hear the word “cat”. After they have finished, you can discuss about what they thought was challenging about this activity or what seemed confusing.
Talk about the distractions
Before starting off with your lessons, you can ask your students to point out the things they feel are distracting them. If you encourage them to talk about these distractions, then that would not only help them focus more on their studies but also face these problems. Once they identify the interferences in their concentration, you can have them removed to help enhance their focus.
You can also consider mixing up lectures, group work, hands-on activities, games and others to keep your students on their toes, since a familiar learning environment can sometimes be responsible for disengaging students.
Teach them how to refocus
There is one aspect to concentration that is not talked about much. It is about reinforcing focus when it gets lost in the bylanes of taking a break. When you allow your students to take a break from their lessons, kids tend to lose focus and resort back to unruly behavior.
You can try this activity to help students regain focus – on the short breaks that you allow in between your lessons, you can model a breathing exercise (a simple inhaling and exhaling process will do). Once you have done that, you can encourage your students to do the same along with you. This way, your students get to enjoy their breaks without getting distracted.
Do not forget to appreciate progress
Visible progress is the best motivator that anyone can ever have. When your students are quiet for the whole length of the class, you can say a simple “Thank you” and appreciate them for it. If they are good enough, you could even allot 5 minutes for anything they want to do. You can maintain a graph that will keep a record of your students’ progress, which you can show to them when they cross a milestone.
However, you should keep in mind that a one-size-fits-all approach does not cater to every student. Therefore, you might need to devise strategies accordingly. You can also conduct counseling classes to help students overcome any possible instances of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Planning appropriately interesting and challenging lessons is quite important along with successful implementation.
What other strategies have you implemented to help students remain focused? Share those with us in the comments section.
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