Cutting Through The Noise: How To Help Kids Focus
Brand new data has confirmed what many teachers already know:
- Kids who spend more than 2 hours per day looking at screens (and that’s currently nearly 2 out of 3 American children) perform worse on memory, language and thinking tests than their peers.
Too many children arrive in school over-stimulated from screens, full of sugar, lacking a good night’s sleep and generally unable to sit still and concentrate on their learning. While a 2015 Microsoft report famously declared that human attention spans are now shorter than that of goldfish, children do have the ability to focus, when the environment and content meet their needs. The challenge, then, is for education professionals and families to work together to provide that happy partnership.
Data supported by the CDC shows that 6.1 million children have ADHD. Yet an even higher number of kids find it difficult to pay attention in class simply because the environment is too busy or distracting. Have a look around at your classroom. Do you need every poster? If space permits, create calm zones where children can read quietly or practice mindfulness. Plan lessons so that you can cut down on your own use of interactive screens, and use outdoor classrooms where possible. Encourage your students to drink water regularly, to stay hydrated and reduce the craving for sugary drinks which cause energy spikes and crashes. TKL offers online courses for teachers which focuses on how to meet specific attention-deficit needs in the classroom.
The number of children diagnosed with anxiety is increasing, partly due to being overwhelmed with insecurities driven by social media and the need to be “on” 24/7 due to mobile phones and tablets. One of the best things you can do for your students is to teach them how to clear their minds and re-focus so that they can concentrate in class; a skill they can take with them into the workplace too. Encourage them to get outdoors and enjoy green spaces, hold sessions on the importance of both physical and mental health, or help them practice mindfulness using apps or meditation.
In order to make a real difference to children’s attention spans, you need support from their families. A common concern is that parents will find this patronizing or rude, but they may be more receptive if you explain why this is important, not just for academic results but in order to raise happy, well adjusted young adults. Ask them for support in reducing screen time before bed at least, offering healthy food to fuel their kids’ learning at breakfast and in packed lunches, and encouraging their kids to get outside and play when they can.
The modern world is full of distractions and stimulation for kids and adults alike. The challenge for teachers is to cut through the clutter and help their pupils to thrive, but it can’t be done without a little parental support. If you can create a calm, focused learning environment and equip your students with the skills to cope with life’s stresses long after they’ve graduated, you will be making a real difference to their world. And that’s a great day at the office.
Teach & Kids Learn (TKL) offers an online course for educators which focuses on strategies that will allow educators to meet the needs of all students.
If you would like to learn more about our course offering, please click here.