Posts Tagged ‘Concentration’

A Lack of Proper Sleep Does a World of Damage to a Child’s Attention Span

November 29, 2014


As schools push for earlier starting times to align with the need for working parents to get to the office on time and getting through an overcrowded curriculum, sufficient sleep and a proper breakfast are even bigger concerns.


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Click on the link to read Why I Believe Classrooms Should Be Fitted With Video Cameras

Why is it Always the Kids’ Fault?

February 11, 2014

tristam hunt

The UK’s Educational Secretary, Tristram Hunt, has called for schoolchildren to be given ‘concentration lessons’, to fight the effects of social media and digital gadgets.

You know what this makes me want to do?

Confiscate Mr. Hunt’s phone for the day. See how he copes without his “digital gadget”.

I bet he feels naked without his “distractions.”

And it’s this rank hypocrisy that is endemic among educational ‘experts’. Here are a few examples of the prevailing double standards I am referring to:

1. They call on teachers to instruct children to become more resilient when studies show that children are far more resilient than adults.

2. They legislate against lunches that c0ntain cheese and yogurt and crisps when the average staff room often contains cakes and biscuits and lollies.

3. They become obsessed with ICT to the point where schools are expected to heavily integrate iPads and interactive Smartboards apps, but then complain that such technologies are causing our children to lose concentration.

Why do we always focus on a child’s lack of concentration and never on a teachers ability to engage? Why is it always that children have lost the capacity to maintain concentration and never that the teacher has offered up a turgid series of worksheets and unimaginative activities?

If you think the children of today are that much worse than you or I when it comes to concentration, attend a professional development seminar and observe all the bored teachers scribbling on their handouts and staring out the window.

And yes, watch as many of them will reach for their digital gadgets at some point during the lecture to catch up with any Facebook updates they may have missed.

Pure hypocrisy!

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Evidence that Daydreaming Helps Children Perform Better in Tests

July 3, 2012

I love this research. I am a proud daydreamer – always has been, always will be.

Daydreaming has the capacity to drive teachers insane. In my day it lead to bad reports and vicious lectures. Nowadays it often leads to recommendations for an ADHD diagnosis and the resultant daily dosages of Ritalin.

Well, throw those blasted tablets in the rubbish bin. Daydreaming is here to stay:

Daydreaming could help children concentrate – and even perform better in tests, researchers claim.

The children also feel less anxious and more motivated to perform, according to a review of studies on the value of time to reflect.

Education should focus more on giving children time to think, claim researchers at the University of Southern California.

Research indicates that when children are given the time and skills necessary for reflecting, they often become more motivated, less anxious, perform better on tests, and plan more effectively for the future.

It is also important in helping us make sense of the world at large … and contributes to moral thinking and well being.

5 Tips for Frustrated Teachers

June 6, 2012

If you are finding your job quite challenging lately and you are at a loss to work out how to restore order in the classroom, I hope these tips will prove useful:

1. You Have Nothing to be Ashamed of: Even the best of teachers often struggle to keep control of a classroom. You should not feel deflated if your current crop of children are making your life difficult and testing your patience. This is nothing unusual. Make sure you keep a positive front. Children do not tend to feel empathy for a defeated teacher. On the flip side, they have respect for a teacher that can overcome difficult moments and stay positive, enthusiastic and show a willingness to intoduce new ideas to make things work.

2. What you Teach is not as Important as who you Teach: As much as it can frustrate when you have a lot to cover and so little time to cover it, it is important to note that the most important aspect of your job is to look after the wellbeing of your students. It is perfectly alright to interrupt a maths class for a discussion on bullying or respect. It is also important to realise that whilst Timmy may frustrate you and come to class with a poor attitude, the best thing you can do for him is to plant a seed of positivity. He may leave your class without the skills you have taught, but at least you have let him know that you believe in him and are there for him regardless.

3. If They are not Listening, Perhaps you Should Stop Talking: Teachers often complain about the lack of concentration among their students. This is commonplace, but not always entirely the students’ fault. Teachers often talk too much. From laboured mat sessions to interminable board work, teachers have got to realise that the more they talk, the more the students program themselves to daydream. Teachers have got to spend less time talking to the class and more time going from individual to individual. This is less threatening, more effective and better for charting individual progress. Other ideas include: Group work, games and interactive programs.

4. Stop Threatening: Detentions, suspensions and other punishments are important tools in a teachers toolbox, but boy they can get overused! A teacher’s attitude sets the tone for the classroom. If the “go-to” response is always to threaten and punish, the classroom will be a negative place. If the teacher instead put a privilege on the board (such as extra computer time) and during the class add under the privellege according to behaviour, attitude and work ethic, it sets a very different mood. Instead of feeling watched and judged, the students feel empowered to earn the teacher’s respect and motivated to win the reward.

5. Small Changes Make a Big Difference: When you are in a rut, the desperate part of you wants to change the world in a day. This is impossible. A better approach would be to isolate a goal or two such as; working on an orderly line-up, getting the students to raise hands before asking questions or getting the students to reflect on how they treat each other. These goals may seem insufficient in the grader scheme of an uncontrolled classroom but I assure you small goals can make big changes to the classroom dynamic.

I hope these tips are of use. We all struggle at times to teach effectively. You are not alone!

The Role of Parents in Preventing Innovation in the Classroom

January 17, 2012

Whilst I believe that it’s the right of every parent to decide what is and isn’t appropriate at school, sometimes they go overboard. The parents that pulled their primary aged children from their school’s massage program (a program which gets children to massage each other) on the grounds that it was inappropriate, had every right to do so. What bothers me, is that by making the school’s program a big issue, they are in fact railroading future programs which may benefit their children.

As much as they may have disagreed with the outcome, the intention of the school was clearly commendable. They wanted to provide a more relaxed and harmonious environment for their students.

Parents are up in arms at a primary school where youngsters have been giving each other massages before lessons.

The ten-minute massage sessions were introduced at Sheffield’s Hartley Brook Primary School to help calm down pupils after lunch breaks.

School head Mrs Chris Hobson said the massage sessions have been a big success but some parents have withdrawn their children from the massage programme claiming it is ‘inappropriate’.

The Massage In Schools programme is designed to help pupils relax and concentrate after energetic lunchtime playtimes.

Parent Rachael Beer who has two children at the school said: ‘I just feel it is inappropriate for children touching each other. I do understand that children need calming down after lunch.

I just think there are better relaxation techniques out there that can help with that, such as yoga, that have the same benefits as peer massage that don’t involve them touching each other.

‘I think children like their own personal space. 

‘Many parents do feel the same way as me. If the head had consulted parents better, she would have a clear view of how parents feel about it.

‘Other parents are telling me they didn’t even know peer massage was being rolled out in school and they do feel uncomfortable with it.

‘I have opted my children out of it. They are then sat doing the actions to peer massage. I feel that those 20 minutes could be better spent doing something more academic.’

One of the big challenges educators of primary aged children have, is the ability to get their students to maintain concentration. It is very hard to keep young children engaged. Anxiety is also often prevalent, posing extra challenges on teachers to reduce the tension and keep the proceedings positive. An extra 20 minutes of academic studies is useless if the children are having trouble concentrating.

When parents make a school’s attempts at innovation difficult and take an idea born out of compassion and turn it into controversy, they discourage schools to want to do something new and different.

Innovation is the way forward in education. We all know our education system is flawed and it requires some fixing. That can only come about from thinking different and acting differently. When parents take a worthwhile idea and make it a media circus they are in effect rallying for the status quo.

Take a step back and observe the status quo. Is that what you really want?

Healthy Eating May Help ADHD Kids: Don’t Tell the Doctors

January 10, 2012

I find the ADHD trends highly frustrating. I am not a doctor or medical professional of any kind so it’s not for me to speculate whether or not ADHD exists. What bothers me, is the rapid increases in children being diagnosed (and more importantly, medicated) with the syndrome. To me Ritalin and other types of ADHD medication must be the last resort. It’s side-effects are often quite pronounced and sometimes quite sad to experience. Kids with larger than life personalities and great bursts of creativity can often be left following their own shadows (I have personally witnessed this!)

When I first entered into the profession I was given medical forms to fill out about a particular student. A previous teacher must have recommended that this student be assessed due to the belief that she may have some ADHD symptoms. In my view she was just a child with poor self-esteem who lacked concentration. In my assessment of her I made it clear that I felt that beyond her concentration being poor there was no other reason to suspect that she may have ADHD.

It didn’t help. Unfortunately, within weeks of being presented with this patient, the doctor prescribed her with Ritalin. No suggestions of a change of diet, no therapy to examine if there is any cause for her low self-esteem and no evidence that she was sent to have her language skills tested. Just the “go to” method, the “one pill fits all” strategy – the blasted pill!

I am proud to say that this child is now off the medication. Her parents decided it was not something they wanted her to be on permanently so they eased her off it. Doctors would be shaking their heads right now and accusing the parents of being irresponsible. But the parents were right. She is now a happy, focussed, non-medicated young teenager.

Doctors can be far too quick to diagnose and prescribe. In my view, they do this out of self-interest. If they were more considerate they would seriously look at diet before prescribing Ritalin.

SIMPLY eating healthier may improve the behaviour of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) if therapy and medication fail, says a study published in the journal Pediatrics.

Nutritional interventions should therefore be considered an alternative or secondary approach to treating ADHD, not a first-line attack, said the review by doctors at Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago, published on Monday.

What they mean by that is first pop the pills and then consider your sugar intake. This is ridiculous. What is the big deal about investigating diet and other possible causes before, as a last resort, prescribing the medication?

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Parents Are Warned About SpongeBob

September 13, 2011

I think I’m in the wrong profession.  Perhaps I should give up teaching and apply for a research grant.  Every day the papers are rife with some obvious or completely warped research intended in making already insecure parents feel even more uneasy about the job they are doing.

Today’s message of fear to parents is a warning to avoid letting their kids watch shows like SpongeBob SquarePants which will bring on terrible (I use that word with the greatest of sarcasm) side-effects:

Researchers say this could be because children mimic the chaotic behaviour of their favourite TV characters, or because the fast-moving and illogical cartoons make them over-excited.

In other words children enjoy the show, they respond to it in an imaginative way and it excites them.  That’s a good thing, right?  Well, apparently not:

Tests showed that four year-olds who watched just a few minutes of the popular television show were less able to solve problems and pay attention afterwards than those who saw a less frenetic programme or simply sat drawing.

As a result, they suggest that parents consider carefully which programmes they allow their offspring to watch, as well as encouraging them to enjoy more sedate and creative activities such as playing board games.

Angeline Lillard from the University of Virginia, who carried out the experiment, said: “Parents should know that children who have just watched SpongeBob Squarepants, or shows like it, might become compromised in their ability to learn and behave with self-control.

“Young children are beginning to learn how to behave as well as how to learn. At school, they have to behave properly, they need to sit at a table and eat properly, they need to be respectful, and all of that requires executive functions.

What is wrong with varying forms of stimulus?  Sure watching too much television isn’t good for a child, but why can’t they combine drawing and board games with other activities that excite them?

Perhaps the problem is that in a bid to get children to follow rigid rules like sitting in classrooms without showing any signs of restlessness or boredom, we are instructed to take away the very pastimes which our children actually respond to?

Prof Lillard suggested: “It is possible that the fast pacing, where characters are constantly in motion from one thing to the next, and extreme fantasy, where the characters do things that make no sense in the real world, may disrupt the child’s ability to concentrate immediately afterward.

“Another possibility is that children identify with unfocused and frenetic characters, and then adopt their characteristics.”

Or perhaps kids just want something with a bit of energy and verve after a day of mat sessions and handwriting practise.  Perhaps the “real world” need to adapt to kids.  Perhaps we should be doing more to capture their attention rather than trying to dull their senses by making them play endless games of Monopoly.

I’ve got an idea for a research project.  The effects of a balanced, nurturing, moderate and non-restictive lifestyle on children.

I’m guessing my reasearch proposal isn’t loopy enough to get funding.

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