Outsmarting Attention Lapse: The Pomodoro Technique to Engage Students
- Jan 20, 2016
Image by: AFS USA: https://www.flickr.com/photos/afsusa/
A sleepyhead in the last bench. A distracted video gamer in the front row. An artist somewhere in the middle, sketching away the fruit bowl in his mind. And one of my personal favorites, the diligent note-taker who hardly understands a word he is writing. All of these and more while the teacher is giving out an important lecture.
Welcome to the everyday classroom.
Thanks to the distractions and a number of other factors, the 50-minute class duration has turned out to be in violation with the 10 – 15 minute attention span of students.
The sad news is, this is not even half of the story. A closer look into this has pulled out worse results. It has been found that after the initial one, attention lapses occurred more frequently – the least being after every 3 – 4 minutes!
The primary outcome of attention lapse is a loss in productivity. With this turning out to be a major setback in the learning process of students, immediate steps to correct this issue is a necessity. One such attempt was made by entrepreneur, author and developer, Francesco Cirillo.
Eager to find out what that is? Here's more.
The Pomodoro Technique
It began in the year 1980 when Francesco Cirillo was starting to get increasingly frustrated in school with his lack of productivity. He realized that this was not because of a shortage of time, but was because of wasting the time he had.
So he decided to prove to himself that he could devote a certain period of time to his studies without letting in any interruptions. He set out to time this duration using a tomato (“pomodoro” in Italian) shaped kitchen timer. Slowly, he began to grasp the innate relationship between time and productivity. And that is how the Pomodoro technique was born.
In simpler words, Pomodoro is a time-management technique that promises an increased focus and reduced mental fatigue. Here's how it works:
- You write out a to-do list for the day.
- Assign 25 minutes for the first 4 tasks on the list with a break of 5 minutes in between.
- After completion of the first 4 tasks, treat yourself to a break of 15 – 20 minutes.
Each 25-minute work duration is called a 'Pomodoro'. Once you finish a Pomodoro, mark your progress with an 'X'. Every time you feel a hint of distraction, an urge to procrastinate or the impulse to switch tasks in any Pomodoro, note it down.
Image By: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lucamascaro/
How it Helps The aim of the Pomodoro technique is to ensure optimum results in short durations of increased concentration. It has been found to have a number of benefits if implemented accurately.
It leverages the tiny attention span of human beings and positions it in a way that would result in maximum productivity while keeping the mind fresh.
- This technique helps you to work with time instead of struggling to keep up. This eliminates stress.
- It ensures that you do not lose track of time while working on something.
- The breaks help to process the takeaways from the tasks you complete in every Pomodoro. This is necessary for the brain to retain information.
- With the Pomodoro technique, you can keep a tab on the tasks that you complete in every Pomodoro. This promotes accountability and reduces procrastination.
- The Pomodoro technique helps you keep a log of the distractions that arise during the course of every Pomodoro. These sources of distractions can then be put into an order according to their importance. You will be amazed to find out that most of these do not matter and are unnecessarily eating into your concentration.
- Additionally, the Pomodoro technique creates an urgency in completing the task, therefore, countering the Parkinson's law. This law states that: “Work expands to fill the time available for its completion”. The Pomodoro technique proves that any work that is believed to take a long duration of time to be completed, can actually be finished in only a couple of Pomodoros if you eliminate distraction.
All of this, just with the help of a tomato timer!
Engaging Students With Pomodoro
The genius of the Pomodoro lies in the fact that instead of focusing on getting the tasks done, it focuses on paying attention to the task. This shift in focus is all you need to get your students to ease into this technique of time management.The first step to accomplishing this is by choosing the task you want your students to complete in one Pomodoro. Once you have done that, it is time to set the timer. It needs to be set for two things:
- A Pomodoro
- A Break
The Pomodoro method aims at producing short bursts of productive work. So you can tweak the durations to suit your classroom type. A couple of minutes here and there wouldn't make much difference. But you need to keep in mind that the duration of the Pomodoros isn't too short for the working mode to even take root in students' minds. On the flip side, it should not be too long so that mental fatigue or a lack of interest sets in.
With these in order, your class is all set to get started.
That being said, the Pomodoro technique takes about 7 – 20 days of consistent use to yield results. So, you will need to keep at it to see some results.
The following video demonstrates how to implement the Pomodoro technique.
Criticisms Faced by the Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro technique is unique, effective and not without its fair share of criticisms.
One of these is that the Pomodoro technique is either an all or nothing one. For example, if you feel the pressure of the time constraint always breathing down your neck, you might not even want to engage in the activity in the first place. Additionally, the fear of being unable to produce an 'X' might make students shy away from beginning a Pomodoro. Many believe that a timer on the desk is not a solution to attention lapse – it might happen anyway.
But then again, the Pomodoro technique, used appropriately, has been found to yield results in many irrefutable cases.
What do you think about the Pomodoro technique? Do you think it can be effective with your students? Or, are you using it already? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below. We would love to hear from you.
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