Active attention is a voluntary process of increased alertness, concentration, interest and needs of a person. Curiosity and hunger are the stimulants for active attention. Passive attention can be said to be an involuntary cognitive process which easily gets distracted by any external stimuli.” (Lamba et al. 2014)
According to the definition above, active attention should be forced in order to stimulate pupils to concentration and extend their ability to focus. Some ways which are considered to promote this process are described below:
- Physical activity before and between lessons help pupils to release their physical energy free and focus longer on tasks.
- “Attention breaks” raise the pupils` awareness for their own concentration span. It has to be explained and shown to pupils, what attention means and how it is expressed. Having regular breaks can be practiced during non-crucial times.
- Setting of smaller time periods, if pupils can’t complete tasks on time. During lectures, it can extend pupils’ attention, if questions are asked.
- Removal of distractive visuals that seems to arrest pupils’ attention.
- Memory games require children’s concentration and focus. Playing these games during lessons but also in free time can support pupils’ concentration.
- Rating (and changing) the level of difficulty lowers pupils’ frustration with tasks. If a pupil struggles with a task, it can be helpful to ask him/her to rate its level of difficulty on a scale. If the level is evaluated high, the task can be modified.
- Breaking tasks into smaller parts supports pupils with a shorter concentration span to accomplish them successfully.
Also, the way a classroom is arranged has an impact on pupils` feeling of comfort and, on a larger scale, on their learning. Things to consider in the classroom layout are i.e.:
- Potential trip hazards and safe storage of any items that could become a safety risk for children should be considered when the classroom arrangement is planned. It may be helpful to try to view the room from a child’s perspective regarding height and comfort of furniture.
- Besides different educational needs, children have specific emotional needs. The learning environment can have an impact on them. If pupils feel comfortable in the room, it will be easier for them to focus and concentrate.
- The positive impact of the learning environment can be strengthened if pupils’ personal contribution is visible in the classroom. For example, their work or drawings can be presented. Further, they can be asked to actively participate in decorating and arranging the classroom.
- There should be enough space for pupils to move around the classroom to access all areas and materials they need for their learning.
- The classroom is arranged according to the type of activity. The classroom should be prepared in a suitable way for regular activities, individual work activities or group work activities. While regular writing tasks might require a table arrangement in rows, group work activities could be better arranged if there are separate groups of desks spread in the classroom. Furthermore, the classroom can have different areas prepared for different activities and tasks, i.e. when pupils work on practical projects they might need a separate area and more space than with completing a written exercise.
- The materials that will be used more frequently than others are placed somewhere easy to access for you and your pupils. View the space available in the room and choose a storage solution that works for everyone.
- An idea to foster reading is the provision of a library area or corner within the classroom. It should be filled with material that is appropriate for the age and the reading ability of the pupils. The library area needs to be carefully planned and should consider also factors such as budget restraint, space available and furniture needed.
- Creation of learning areas: As mentioned previously, different areas in the classroom can be arranged and reserved for different activities.
It is important that teachers are clear about the aims and what it is that the pupils will accomplish by using this area. Furthermore, it should be confirmed that pupils receive support when they need it. The way to the areas should be easy to reach and to come back (if it is outside the classroom) for pupils also for the purpose of being under your observation.
Title: Attention boost
Objective: To promote use of methods to increase concentration
Contents: Select from the contents “Strategies for boosting attention and concentration” you learnt before, at least three of the listed points, which you consider as useful to boost your pupils’ attention in order to be more concentrated during lessons. Based on the approaches you chose, create concrete activities, which could be implemented in your classroom. Depending on your pupils’ needs, design one, which could be applied every day, one that will be applied weekly and one that you can use, if it is necessary or appropriate.
For example: If your class is very lively, but also gets easily distracted by noise, the pupils might profit from a daily physical practice (like coordination exercise) in the morning. Once a week, a reading time could be implemented where every pupil finds him/herself a comfortable place in the classroom and reads on his/her own without speaking for 30 minutes. If there is a project/group work and pupils obviously already tend to lose focus, the task can be split into two part. After the first part of group work, the task is completed in individual work or together with the teacher.
Try to apply your designed concentration practices daily/weekly/if necessary or appropriate. Continue the practices/notes for at least one month. Note your observations regarding the impact of the activities on your pupils each time after you applied them. Based on your observations, change the activities or develop them further in order to better fit the pupils’ needs.
Material: Paper, pens
Description: The curriculum of a 2nd grade elementary school class includes the subject maths as the first lesson after a longer break on Friday. It is generally very hard to get the pupils to go inside the class after a longer break, but especially on these days. When it is managed to finally have all pupils inside the classroom, the atmosphere is characterised by a lack of concentration and de-motivation. The teacher already spoke to the principal, who tried to re-schedule and changed the subject, but the result was the same. The pupils are not obviously disturbing the lesson, but seem to be absent with their thoughts and are hard to engage to participate in class.
- What seems to be the main obstacle for concentration of this class?
- How could it be overcome?
- What methods could the teacher use to increase pupils’ concentration?
- Although a change of subject didn’t make a difference, would it be better to have another subject in the first lesson after the break on Friday? Why/Why not?