Distractions can come in various forms and can deter students from paying attention in lessons. I believe that all children can lose concentration at times, but some will get distracted more easily than others. The chances are that nearly all parents will answer “yes” to the following questions.
When children don’t concentrate…
Does your child find it difficult to pay attention?
Is your child easily distracted by what’s going on around them?
Does your child day-dream a lot?
It is a common problem and a worry for many parents and can actually hinder the progress a child makes. In the classroom setting and at my tuition centre, keeping students focused on learning can be a challenging task. However, at Kip McGrath, we have learnt to overcome these sorts of problems by using some very simple techniques.
1. Keep it Short and Sweet
Children have an average attention span of 15 minutes. After this time, they get bored and lose focus. So work solidly for 15 minutes and then make a change. At Kip McGrath, each activity is designed to last 15 minutes, children are then moved onto another activity which uses another type of skill set or study skill.
For example, if you are working with your child at home with reading. You could spend the first 15 minutes reading, and then move onto writing 5 questions to ask the main character in the book, then move onto watching a short video on a scene from the book and then move onto answering some questions to test comprehension. Notice that each of these activities uses a different type of learning skill and therefore takes the boredom out of learning.
2. Remove All Distractions
If you know that your child will be distracted by the phone ringing or by overhearing an advert on TV, then switch them both off! If there are other children in the room, who are also working, then move your child so that interaction between them is minimal. I teach a child who likes to see what other children are doing and is always keen to help them if he knows the answer, so to avoid this, he sits on the other side of the room with his back to them. Another rule we have for children who insist on a toilet break every lesson, is that they must go before the start of the lesson. Grumbling stomachs can be ignored and all equipment must be on the table before work begins. I even have a stash of sharpened pencils in case a child has a blunt one!
3. Set Realistic Expectations
You need to know what your child is capable of and what is expected of his age before you start assuming that your child has problems concentrating. If a child’s work is not set at the right level, then you will either get a child who is bored because the work is too easy or a child who will avoid the work because it is too hard. Pitching it at the right level is key to how we teach children at Kip McGrath. In fact, I use this strategy when working with my own children. I also check on the national curriculum website, what they should know for their age so that I am teaching them what they will cover at school.
One parent who brought their child for help with maths couldn’t understand why their child was struggling with it. He had tried to help at home by getting his 6-year-old to learn all of the times tables by rote. I asked the child to count up in 2’s from the number 24 – he couldn’t. So the child had not understood the concept of times tables or how to work them out. He also didn’t recognise odd and even numbers.
If you find the national curriculum difficult to understand, then invest in some good study books which will summarise what your child needs to know and use them as a guide.
These techniques work very well for us at Kip McGrath, and I have seen many children who find difficulty concentrating at school just thrive in our lessons. Give them a try.