If an individual has ever felt like their students have the attention span of a goldfish, then they are not alone. Teachers have long struggled to get some students to concentrate and focus in the classroom, and a growing amount of research shows kids cannot concentrate the way adults do, which is generally a topic of concern.
This is not necessarily a bad thing, either. In one study of kids and grown-ups conducted at the Ohio State University to better understand focus and recall, researchers found that kids could not concentrate as adults. Still, the kids remembered more than the grown-ups, even though their minds wandered and traveled a lot.
So should an individual give up on improving student concentration in their classroom? Nope! There has been some pulled-together research on what does work when it comes to getting students to focus, plus strategies for focusing in the classroom mentioned below.
How long is a Student’s Attention Span?
Exactly how long a student can focus is unsurprisingly relatively dependent on Neuroscientists. Neuroscientists tell us that the average attention span will get longer as kids get older and grow.
Of course, this is a generalization, and there’s evidence that the increasing amount of media is making it harder for kids to train their brains on one particular thing or work. A study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, for example, found that fully half of kids 8 to 18 are simultaneously watching a TV show,w or surfing the web while doing their homework. That data is from back in 2010, before Tik Tok or dozens of today’s streaming services even existed, which is incorrect.
There’s also the fact that ADHD diagnoses continue to grow in the United States, although they have begun to level out in recent years. It is estimated that 9.4 percent of American kids have been diagnosed with attention-related disorders. Many of those kids have other mental disorders affecting their ability to concentrate in the classroom, from anxiety to depression to autism.
Of course, then there is the simple fact that sometimes kids like us can have bad days when they cannot seem to pay attention and concentrate on work.
Why Is Student Concentration Important?
This may seem rather obvious to an individual. An individual wants their students to pay attention in class so they can soak up all that good information being sprinkled on them by the mentor. But the issues of kids who do not concentrate in class can go much further and beyond. One study out of Canada found a correlation between kids who could not pay attention and lower earnings when they hit adulthood and growth as an individual. Published in the medical journal JAMA Psychiatry, the study found that a single one standard deviation reduction in inattention scores at the age of 6 would restore $3,077 in annual earnings for adult men and $1,915 for adult women, respectively.
Read also – How Can You Learn Fast?
A few moments or even a day or two when kids are not paying attention in class is one thing, but when inattention is chronic, it can have long-lasting repercussions as well. With that in mind, here are some ways to help young learners learn to focus and stay on task with utmost dedication and concentration.
How to Improve Student Concentration
After figuring out the average attention span of the age group that an individual teaches, they should now think about how they can best deliver lesson content and sequence activities to ensure maximum concentration and focus. These strategies can help improve concentration in the classroom, and improvement can be seen too.
Take Advantage of Centers:
Learning centers are not just a great way to give kids Time to work hands-on with manipulatives or provide more in-depth exposure to the curriculum. There’s solid research that this kind of small group work is beneficial to helping students concentrate in the classroom precisely.
A- Keep Your Lessons Short
The Carnegie Mellon and Teachers College of Columbia study found that 25 percent of instructional lessons were 17 minutes or longer. Still, kids’ minds started wandering about the 10-minute mark as they could not focus after that. When planning a lesson, an individual should break it down into smaller chunks to improve student concentration as much as possible. That does not mean they necessarily stop teaching about the topic or miss any important part. They may switch gears from a group activity to partner work or from an individual task to sharing the work they have completed with a small group or anything as such.
B- Make Brain Breaks Routine
In line with keeping lessons short, brain breaks should be incorporated throughout the school day to let kids shake the cobwebs out and regain their concentration powers. The general rule of thumb is to provide around three to five minutes of “break” Time to give the mind time to reset and relax and store the lessons taught earlier.
C- Fast-Finisher Activities
There is nothing inclined to distract students faster than a classmate who has finished their work and is bored with a capital B precisely. One must ensure they have plenty of fast-finisher activities they can begin after completing individual work, so there is never a moment to interrupt a classmate’s focus and destroy their concentration.
D- Not to Hold Back Recess
Taking away recess is now illegal in many states, but if it’s still the norm where an individual teaches, it could be working against them when it comes to student concentration and focuses. Physical activity is key in improving everything from memory to concentration and focus!
E- Use Active Games
While being on the topic of physical activity, incorporating it into the classroom can be invaluable in helping students focus and concentrate better. Use active games as a whole class to practice and review content to take advantage of its benefits and inject extra fun into the learning process.
F- Ask Students to Rate Tasks
If an individual is already using exit tickets in the classroom to find out what students’ gleaned from a lesson, they know that student feedback is invaluable in helping them make their lessons more effective and interesting too. That can also apply to how well they keep kids engaged and curious. One should not be afraid to ask their students how interesting they found the task or if they were daydreaming a little (or a lot) or anything relevant.
G- Tone down Décor
Karrie Godwin, a Kent State University professor who worked on the 2016 study, is also known in educational circles for her research into how classroom décor can affect students’ ability to focus and concentrate. As much as we all love our pretty décor, the fact is that heavily decorated classrooms can also hinder learning. Find out how to create a calming classroom and decorate with the intent to help the students stay focused!
H- Let Them Chew Gum
Chewing gum has been shown to help an individual stay focused longer, especially when doing tasks requiring visual memory.
I- Allow Kids to Use Fidget Toys
Although they have been banned in many a classroom unless specifically written into an IEP, there’s growing evidence that push bubble toys, spinners, clickers, and the rest of the options out there can have a real benefit when it comes to keeping kids on task and also to help them stay focused.
J- Create a Daily Mindfulness Practice Routine
Focus does not come naturally to most of us. It has to be practiced and made a habit. The benefits of using mindfulness in the classroom are varied, including the ability to practice concentrating and staying focused. There are a host of short, easy mindfulness activities for kids that can be incorporated into their daily routines to help them stay focused. One should plan to run a 5-10 minute mindfulness practice at a time that the mentor knows students need a little extra something to help focus and get the most out of the learning experience that is about to occur and made.
K- Keep Your Eye on the Time!
Once it has begun to increase the awareness of the variety of individual student attention spans in their class, keeping an eye on the Time that has elapsed since the beginning of the activity helps in many ways. Ask a student who is known to struggle with attention to show their work after a certain amount of Time being passed. This simple act of entering the world of the student requires them to shift gears from whatever they were doing to communicating with you or the mentor precisely. It can be an effective way to keep easily-distracted students focused on a task and has the added benefit of allowing them to ask for help or clarification if needed, thus improving the students in every aspect.
l- Set up Flexible Seating
Flexible seating is another proactive approach to improving student outcomes and results. It is a way of setting up the classroom by ditching the traditional notion of “rows of desks facing the teacher at the front,” respectively. Instead, aim to provide students with various seating options so they can choose the one that is most comfortable for them and stay focused.
M- Play Memory Games
Make memory or other concentration games available to students to play at appropriate times and intervals. The simple act of focusing for a long time while in the mental ‘play space’ of a game is a valuable practice of concentration skills. Familiar card games like Go Fish, Snap, and Memory or commercial games like Guess Who, Uno, Battleship, and Jenga are all examples of games to help practice the skill of concentration. One can also explore the collection of educational games, bingo cards, and active games. There are many ways to cater to the varying concentration spans of the class. Still, the most valuable may be facilitating hands-on, practical, or inquiry-based learning experiences that require creative thinking and problem-solving.
A few more strategies help students to stay focused and concentrated on whatever they do. The students themselves may follow the strategies mentioned below;-
1. Nourish your body & refresh your brain –
Try working at a time of day when you naturally have more energy and stamina. For instance, if you normally do homework later in the evening, try starting it earlier in the afternoon and see how that affects your ability to stay focused and avoid distractions and unnecessary disturbances.
Try exercising before you study or even read. Just 15-20 minutes of aerobic exercise can provide an immediate boost in executive function, which helps students avoid distractions and maintain focus on their work.
Drink lots of water!
Studies have shown that even being slightly dehydrated can significantly impact attention and focus precisely.
If you are having trouble focusing while you sit, try standing or walking while you work or do something similar. Some students find that they can think and focus more effectively while physically active and in motion.
Take short breaks after completing each assignment or after 30-60 minutes of focused work and utmost concentration. Getting up to walk around, refill your water bottle, use the bathroom, pet your dog, etc., can help reset your focus and attention.
2. Eliminate external distractions-
Turn off or silence your electronic devices or other devices as well. If you cannot turn them off, put them on silent and turn off all notifications precisely. Block internet access for websites that tend to distract you with one of the great tools designed for this. If you are writing, try putting Word in the ‘Focus’ view or writing within an app as much as possible.
Try changing your location to someplace less familiar, with fewer potential distractions nearby, to stay focused.
If studying in silence is distracting, try listening to ambient sounds or music designed to help focus & creativity from sites like coffitivity.com, noisli.com, or focusatwill.com.
3. Minimize internal distractions-
If your mind is racing in 100 different directions as you sit down to work, take a few minutes before you start to write down everything on your mind so you can deal with it later, after your work is completed.
Keep a notepad (or a text file) nearby while you are working, so you can quickly jot down any ideas that come to mind but are NOT related to the task you are working on. Each time, remind yourself: that’s NOT what I’m doing right now, and this will help me stay focused.
If you are worried about something, commit to worrying about it at a specific future time later in the day, and set the alarm to remind yourself so your brain can trust you enough to let it go knowing you will get to it later and currently focus on the work which you are doing.
4. Make it easy-
Identify the physical next step you need to take to make progress with this work, and focus on WHAT you need to do to move things forward and in a positive way of progress.
Shrink the task down to something so easy that you are 100% confident in your ability to do it successfully without any errors. For example: commit to focus on your work for just 5 minutes, or write just ONE paragraph, and then give yourself a break; this will help a lot without a doubt.
Reduce performance pressure. For example: Instead of trying to write a “good” essay, start by creating a rough first draft or sketch at first.
5. Increase your motivation-
Create a reward, or incentive, for yourself by planning a specific, fun activity you will do as soon as you finish your work or any other similar stuff by which you can pamper yourself.
Focus on the benefits of finishing this assignment or task. Think about how good you will feel as soon as you have completed it, or how much better you will do on your next test and similar things.
Increase your accountability by working where people can see what you are doing or make a public commitment (to a friend, roommate, parent, sibling, etc.) about what you will accomplish in this period.
6. Increase the time pressure-
Reduce the total amount of time you have available to do the work by creating constraints that require you to finish your work at a particular time or duration. For example, you could tell a friend you are going to Facetime them at 8 pm and set a goal of finishing your homework before you allow yourself to call, helping you stay focused.
Instead of setting aside 3 hours for homework, divide your work into shorter intervals and give yourself a deadline for each task as much as possible.
If the task feels tedious, challenge yourself to see how quickly you can finish it by trying to set an absurdly short deadline or time duration.