With the Christmas season nearly upon us, it's a time when teachers are doing everything they can to encourage their students to concentrate on their school work for the last few days of the school year. However, it can be difficult to know exactly how best to help students who have difficulties concentrating. There seems to be more and more students for whom this is the case, maybe because of the on-demand, full access media and entertainment children experience today. Danah Boyd, principal researcher at Microsoft, suggests that our children's brains have adapted to this: "Brains are being rewired — any shift in stimuli results in a rewiring…".
If this is true, then we need to take a fresh look at traditional educational ideas. Try these simple steps to get started teaching to the rewired brain:
Be surprising - Children love surprises, so try to include lots during the school week. An edible element to any lesson will give it a spark. Moving the location or rearranging the classroom furniture can inject some fun. A guest or mystery object will intrigue. You can't be surprising all the time - you'd be exhausted - but if your class know there are surprises around the corner, their attention will be just where you want it.
Be active - Don't leave all the physical activity to PE and break times. Mix up the school day with it, and if you can make it part of the learning, so much the better. Even just a quick five minutes of physical activity will work wonders, especially if your students are going to spend a while seated at their desks.
Be flexible - A seating plan can be really useful, but it can also hold you back from trying new ideas. You need a classroom setup and school desk arrangement which allows you to be flexible in how you organise your students. Don't sit children at a desk with the same neighbours all year. Mix up your organisation with different groups, individual work and pairs. Design activities which require children to move around the classroom.
Don't overload - There is an emphasis on classroom display these days which needs to be taken advisedly. Displays are great and can be really helpful learning aids or celebrations of achievement, but they can also be distracting. Students who have difficulty concentrating should ideally be exposed only to the stimuli you plan for their learning. Screening can help in more difficult circumstances, but simply keeping your walls well organised and using sensible colour schemes can go a long way towards keeping the environment manageable.