Being able to pay attention in class and not be distracted by the surroundings or the other classmates is a key skill that we want our children to have. It helps them maximise their learning in class when they are able to focus and take in the content that the teacher is teaching.
However, our classrooms can be a noisy place filled with distractions for a child who is not equipped with strong attentional skills. We have the teacher talking in front of the class, a classmate drops a pencil or another child is rocking his chair or someone just walked past the corridor.
But, with practice and time we can actually train up a child’s attentional abilities and improve his persistence to stay on task.
Firstly, we need to understand that there are different kinds of attention needed for learning:
(i) Sustained Attention: ability to stay on task for the given duration of time
Example: Pay attention for the whole period of English (for 30 – 60 minutes)
(ii) Selective Attention: ability to concentrate on given task and not be distracted by other things
Example: Complete given worksheet without stopping to talk to the classmate next to him or stopping to see how his classmate is doing
(iii) Divided Attention: ability to complete two separate tasks at the same time
Example: Write down the things on the board while still listening and understanding what the teacher is teaching
(iv) Auditory Attention: ability to follow pace of teaching via auditory input
Example: Following the teacher’s pace while she is reading something from the book
Just as we can improve any skill with targeted practice, we can also help a child improve their ability to pay attention by carrying out targeted training.