It’s Getting Harder to Pay Attention

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5 Simple Teaching Strategies to Help Students Increase Their Attention Span

Interview with Huda Abdul Malak-Special Needs Consultant at etcetera

The best teachers learn as much from their students as they do from them. For teachers at etcetera, every day has the potential for a new discovery, and Huda Abdul Malak is no exception. We asked her about some tricks of the trade that may help students who struggle with attention deficits.

1. Communication

“Communication is key when it comes to keeping students focused on the task at hand,” says Huda. “Keep everything precise and concise.” For young kids, a good rule of thumb is to always keep task instructions under eight seconds, which is about the average attention span of an eight-year-old.

2. Limit Visual Distractions

Another useful tip Huda offers is to minimize distracting visual elements in the classroom. “For a student diagnosed with ADHD, it is preferable to conduct lessons in a classroom that is not overly bright with too many colors or overly cluttered since these elements compete for the attention of the student,” she says.

3. Compartmentalize & Reward Tasks

“Breaking down tasks into smaller, manageable chunks is one of the best ways to keep students on task,” Huda explains. “It’s important to recognize and offer positive reinforcement when they maintain their focus, it’s not something that should be taken for granted but should be rewarded. This will help learners maintain on-task behavior in future classroom assignments.”

4. Don’t be Scared to Break The Rules

According to Huda, the most successful teachers adopt a flexible approach. “Not every lesson has to be a desk task. Some students learn best when kinesthetic activities are integrated,” she says. Kinesthetic learners are those students who can best retain information when it is delivered in a multi-sensory way. “We can use role-play, song or movement as a way of reinforcing the lesson.”

5. Add Some Drama

Psychologists have shown that we all have a novelty bias; the tendency to become distracted by new stimuli. Huda uses this principle to her advantage by including multimedia and colored flashcards in her lessons. “It sounds simple but even something as simple as different colored pens can make a difference,” she says. “The most important thing to remember is that every student is different, so you have to adjust your approach to accommodate different needs.” The take home message? To teach a student with ADHD successfully you need to pay close attention.

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