Elementary school teachers know the difficulties many children face with paying attention during class, particularly if tasks seem monotonous or tedious to them. One of the biggest challenges about being a kid is keeping your focus during school. Thankfully, there are strategies that a child can employ that will help to improve his or her attention span. Top teachers in New Jersey recommend using one or a combination of the following techniques that will help kids improve attention span and earn them better grades in school.
Let’s get physical
Physical activity stimulates the brain. Getting physical gets blood circulating throughout the body and into the brain more freely, which enables children to focus better in class. This is the reason recess was introduced in schools long ago, and it remains a vital part of education today. Children who struggle with low attention spans work much better if they are afforded time each day for play. In fact, some schools across the country have instituted shorter recess times in order to include two or more per day, which gives children time to get physical, work out frustrations, and get back to class with better ability to take a fresh approach to new tasks. Elementary school teachers in New Jersey recommend having students begin their day with 15-20 minutes of physical play before school begins. This will make them better able to tackle challenging tasks they face throughout the morning. An additional 15-20 minutes of physical play in mid-day is ideal in order to bring that same high level of focus to afternoon tasks. In fact, just as adults often run out of steam in the early afternoon, so too can children run into a wall with their attention spans around this time. Midday recess can cut down on afternoon focus drain dramatically, even for kids who struggle most with their ability to pay attention.
Give me a break
Recent research shows that children actually can train, or perhaps more accurate, re-train, themselves to pay attention. This can work even for children whose attention spans seem to be at their lowest. For this to happen, researchers recommend practicing attentive behavior at various times throughout the school day. Use a specially designed app (a timer will work just as effectively) that will sound a signal while children are working on a specific task. Have children document if they were paying attention when this signal went off or if they were not. For ‘attention breaks’ to work, however, the classroom must be a nonjudgmental space where children can be honest about whether or not they truly were paying attention. This type of practice helps to retrain a child’s brain to understand what it is to ‘pay attention, and just how often throughout the school day his or her attention has drifted off the task at hand.
For those children who find themselves facing the most challenges in paying attention, breaking tasks up into smaller intervals can be quite effective. On average, children can focus on a single task in front of them for two to five minutes for every year old they are. For instance, a seven-year-old child’s average attention span is good for just under 15 minutes to just over a half hour. Breaking up tasks into time frames that work with the age group of children in your class is an effective means of promoting the highest attention span a child has to give. Another important thing to remember when trying to get the most out of any student’s attention span is that lengthy lectures actually work against these. Children need to be involved. They need to participate in discussions, and they need periodic breaking up of tasks in order to stay engaged. Change up a lecture throughout with simple tasks such as asking children to raise their hands in order to answer questions. This action will engage students and keep them on task for longer periods of time.
Shari Duddy and other top teachers in New Jersey encourage kids to utilize the above strategies in order to promote greater attention spans. For children who struggle with being able to pay attention to tasks they find less than interesting, increased physical activity, taking time for attention breaks, and breaking up certain tasks will help to maximize attention and minimize a student’s boredom in class.