by Amy Smith
In order to be successful learners, children must be able to focus in class. After all, if they regularly miss the entire point of a lesson, blank out on important information, forget to take notes or complete only a little of the required classwork, they will lack a firm foundation in whole areas of important knowledge — not to mention underachieving on tests and projects. It’s normal for kids to have some trouble focusing at times, but when an extra challenge such as anxiety or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is present, the lack of focus may become quite problematic. Use these tips to help your own child or your students who have attention challenges achieve better focus in school.
Changes at Home Affect the Classroom
Many parts of a child’s home life impact the way they behave in the classroom, including their level of focus. The most basic helpful change you can make is to ensure your child consistently gets enough sleep. We know that lack of sleep relates to focus problems for kids and adults. Experts recommend nine to 11 hours of sleep per night for school-aged kids, including at least eight hours for teenagers. Another important change to make at home is the elimination of processed sugar, artificial sweeteners and artificial dyes from your child’s diet. These substances, present in many pre-packaged foods and soft drinks, have been linked to brain problems and behavioral issues. If your child’s lack of focus is due to anxiety or ADHD, consider a holistic program like Brillia that combines a product that helps regulate neurological processes linked to these symptoms with advice on healthy lifestyle choices to maximize the efficacy of the product.
You can also help your child focus in the classroom by ensuring they routinely complete their homework each day. Finally, maintain close contact with your child’s classroom teacher. Ask the teacher for regular updates on how your child is focusing in class. Do they have problems with other students? Is your child losing focus because they don’t understand the material? Does they need tutoring or extra help? The teacher observes your child every day and may be able to give you an idea of how to provide support from home.
Atmosphere of the Classroom
For teachers who want to assist kids in achieving better focus, first look at the physical appearance of the classroom. Certain colors and visual details can be very distracting to kids who already struggle to concentrate. Consider using calming colors — blues, purples and greens — for walls, posters or classroom furniture. Be sure that visual aids such as charts, posters and pictures are relevant to the subject matter you are teaching. Arrange them in an orderly, appealing way, spaced out enough to avoid clutter and confusion.
Be vigilant about noise levels in the classroom. You can’t expect anyone — much less a hyperactive child — to focus on a mentally challenging task if there is a lot of chatter, moving around or furniture noise. If students are distracting each other, try rearranging seats to put the most distractible kids near the front of the classroom. You may find it useful to provide privacy dividers during times of quiet independent seatwork.
Routines in the Classroom
Most children want to know what’s coming next and thrive on regular routine. In your classroom, try to maintain a regular schedule of teacher instruction, group projects and independent seatwork. When kids know the expectations, it’s easier for them to switch into the right mode. When you’re teaching a new concept or reviewing an old one, avoid long periods of uninterrupted “teacher talk” by asking frequent questions, calling on students randomly or asking for volunteers to encourage attention from everyone.
When it’s time for quiet, independent work, monitor students by walking around the classroom and providing soft reminders to kids who need help staying on track. In order to help children organize their time and finish the necessary tasks, break requirements down into “bites” and list them on a whiteboard that’s easily visible. These bites can include pages to read, workbook pages to complete, paragraphs to write, important words to make note of and homework assignments.
At regular intervals, allow students to take breaks, including physical movement — outdoors if possible. Too much time spent in mental concentration will eventually provide diminishing returns. Get to know your class, and when they approach their limit provide a break for soft conversation, jumping jacks, a song to sing together or some other brief break from the academic task at hand.
By combining parental support, sleep and dietary changes and a classroom that is orderly, quiet and visually appealing, it’s possible to help even the most inattentive children improve their focus — and potentially improve their academic success at the same time.
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References: 1. https://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/helping-kids-focus/ 2. https://www.additudemag.com/end-distractibility-improving-adhd-focus-at-home-and-school/ 3. https://health.usnews.com/wellness/for-parents/articles/2017-09-26/how-to-help-your-inattentive-child-thrive-at-school 4. https://www.alaskasleep.com/blog/struggling-to-pay-attention-lack-of-sleep-may-be-to-blame 5. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/neuronarrative/201204/what-eating-too-much-sugar-does-your-brain 6. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/could-artificial-sweeteners-be-bad-for-your-brain-2017060711849