“Hey you! Pay ATTENTION!” ;)

An expert is someone who has succeeded in making decisions and judgments simpler through knowing what to pay attention to and what to ignore.
— Edward de Bono Maltese physician, author, inventor and consultant.

“Riiiing!” goes the bell to start the school day.  A teacher greets her class joyfully and begins her lesson.   Meanwhile a clock ticks rhythmically on the wall; pages turn in a book; whispers float in the back of the room; a student’s shoes feel a little too tight today, and the delicious smells from the bakery across the street waft in through the classroom window… With all of these stimuli simultaneously confronting the students’ senses, how do they choose where to place their attention?

 As thoughtful teachers we plan engaging lessons packed full of opportunities for investigation, growth, discovery, and learning for our students every day. We do all of this preparation in the hopes that students will walk away from our classes with more positive MINDSETS and oodles of new SKILLSETS to help them achieve fantastic RESULTS in life. (MINDSETS + SKILLSETS = RESULTS) All of our hours of planning and preparing, however, will be for naught if our students aren’t able to pay attention to what’s important.

In last month’s newsletter (link) we introduced Jack Naglieri’s PASS theory and discussed the theory’s first ability – planning. This month we will focus on the second letter in PASS– A - which stands for attention. According to Naglieri, “Attention is a neurocognitive ability that a person uses to selectively attend to some stimuli and ignore others.” This skill is vital for students to be successful in the classroom and in life. The good news is that we can help students strengthen their “attention muscles”. Here are some strategies that we can use to guide our students to success:

  • Break our direct instruction into segments of @ 10 minutes (CHUNK)
  • Offer engaging opportunities in varied learning modalities for students to practice, process, and interact with new information (CHEW)
  • Periodically provide energizing “brain breaks”.
  • Current research is teaching us more about the benefits of mindfulness practices in schools.
  • Lead explicit “attention check-ins”  Ask students to self-assess their level of attention.  
  • For students who have trouble sitting through a lesson, set up an ironing board in the back of the room for them to use as a standing desk. 
  • For students who are very tactile, consider offering them a medicine ball for a seat or something quiet for them to figit with at their seat. 
  • We can also empower our students to take charge of improving their own attention by teaching them the re-focusing strategies found in one of this week’s free resources.  

Though these tips will certainly benefit students with ADD/ADHD, their power does not stop there. All students benefit from explicit instruction on attention strategies in order to learn how to resist distraction and focus on the right stimulus. Students can keep the print out in the front of their binder or taped to their desk to have these helpful reminders handy during class time.  There is also a poster (in the free resources section to the right) to use as an anchor chart on your wall throughout the year. 

Please share your success stories and questions with us on facebook. Have you tried any of these strategies? How did it go? Do you have any other ideas for brain breaks that we can all try? 

For more information about Jack Naglieri’s PASS theory and assessments visit his website.