Concentration span, often referred to as attention span, is a crucial cognitive skill that plays a pivotal role in a child's academic success and overall development. Elementary school is a critical phase in a child's educational journey, where the foundations of learning and cognitive abilities are laid. However, with the rise of digital distractions, maintaining a healthy concentration span can be challenging for young learners.
Generation Alpha, born in or after 2010 - the same year the iPad was introduced - is the first generation to experience digital classrooms from early childhood, especially following the Covid pandemic and lockdown. Research from June 13, 2023, encompassing feedback from over 500 primary schools and early years teachers, suggests that pupil concentration has worsened since the end of the pandemic.
At ISA, we have implemented strategies to maintain the concentration levels for longer and keep students engaged in the classroom. By regularly reflecting upon the importance of triangulation between student, home and school, we aim to learn from parents and to share in receiving and suggesting strategies and techniques which encourage enhanced concentration.
Establishing consistent routines
At ISA we find that routine provides a sense of predictability and structure for children, parents, and staff. By establishing consistent daily routines, children become accustomed to designated periods for learning, play, and rest. By preparing children for specific periods of focused learning, it becomes easier for them to maintain attention and reduce disproportionate anxiety or stress.
Break Tasks into Manageable Segments - ‘chunking’
Long periods of focused attention can be overwhelming for young children. Breaking tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks helps prevent mental fatigue and allows children to accomplish tasks more effectively. For instance, rather than assigning a lengthy assignment all at once, teachers often encourage students to work on different sections over multiple sessions or employ a flipped classroom approach which asks children to read about the topic before the input. Collaborating with parents to encourage a flexible approach to home learning which reduces stress is a hugely worthwhile task as it encourages a passion for life-long learning and avoids the negative connotation of stressful task completion at home at the end of a long hard day.
Incorporating Active Learning
At ISA, we seek to utilise and maximise active learning opportunities. Active learning engages multiple senses and keeps children (and teachers) physically involved in the learning process. Incorporating activities such as group discussions (think, pair and share), hands-on experiments, and educational games not only makes learning more interactive but also enhances children's ability to stay attentive and engaged in the lesson.
Providing a Distraction-Free Environment
Creating a conducive and shared learning environment is essential for improving concentration. At ISA we aim to minimise distractions by ensuring that the classroom or study area is clutter-free, quiet, and free from disruptive elements. Although this can be a challenge, given the vibrant nature of our school, we do aim to reduce noise, visual distractions, and access to electronic devices during focused periods of learning.
Using Visual Aids and Interactive Materials
Our school is in a fortunate position to have wonderful resources at our teaching disposal. In addition to our outstanding setting and purpose-made building, we employ the newest technology regarding interactive whiteboards, the CleverTouch. This offers teachers the opportunity to immediately utilise visual aids, like diagrams, charts, and colourful visuals which can capture children's attention and help them better understand complex concepts. Our practice has found that interactive materials, such as the CleverTouch, Chromebooks, iPads and educational apps and websites, engage children's curiosity and maintain their interest in the learning material.
Encouraging Regular Physical Activity
Our staff are firm believers and models of the positive impact that physical activity can have on cognitive function and attention span. Incorporating regular breaks for physical movement or exercise during the school day helps to increase blood flow to the brain and rejuvenate our students' focus and concentration.
Practise Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques
ISA teachers find that mindfulness exercises, such as deep breathing and meditation, can help children develop the ability to focus their attention intentionally. These techniques teach children how to bring their focus back to the present moment, which is a valuable skill for enhancing concentration. These exercises can often incorporate some humour and physical activity which builds a sense of community and trust within our team.
Offering Varied Learning Experiences
As adults, we know best that monotony can lead to decreased attention span. Introducing variety into the learning process, by using a mix of teaching methods, such as storytelling, role-playing, and multimedia presentations, all help keep children engaged and curious about what comes next in their learning journey.
Setting Realistic Goals and Expectations
In all walks of life, the act of setting achievable goals gives an individual a sense of accomplishment and motivation to stay focused. Both teachers and parents should therefore model clear expectations, provide guidance, and celebrate small achievements to boost children's self-esteem and concentration. The learning process must be positive and enjoyable and if it is not then we need to stop and reassess what we are doing.
Promoting Healthy Lifestyle Habits
ISA teaching staff agrees that a balanced diet, adequate sleep, and limited screen time contribute significantly to a child's overall well-being and cognitive function. Prioritising these aspects of a healthy lifestyle can significantly enhance a child's concentration span and lead to positive shared learning experiences.
In conclusion, improving concentration span is a collaborative effort between children, parents and school. By incorporating consistent routines, interactive learning experiences, distraction-free environments, and promoting healthy lifestyle habits, the children can develop the cognitive skills necessary for sustained attention and successful learning. These strategies not only benefit academic performance but also lay the groundwork for lifelong learning and cognitive growth.