Anyone who has braved the perils of babysitting, or who has taken the giant leap into parenting or teaching children knows that keeping young kids attentive, engaged, and focused can be an uphill battle at times. In the best of conditions, research has shown that children between the ages of 6 and 8 have an average attention span of 15-20 minutes. For kids of kindergarten age (around 5 years old), that number drops to only 5-10 minutes. While these numbers might seem low, some researchers also believe that the maximum human attention span is only around 22 minutes, even for teenagers and adults.
These days, teachers at nearly every level of education need not only to be well-versed in multiple teaching techniques, but also in how to keep students engaged in a lesson and how to bring them back should they lose their focus. For some, medication drastically improves quality of life, but it’s not always the answer and can have unpleasant side effects.
Below we outline six methods that can help keep young students engaged in an educational atmosphere.
1. Implement Active Learning Techniques
In their book “Inspiring Active Learning,” Merrill Harmon and Melanie Toth set forth a plethora of active learning strategies geared toward keeping students thoughtfully and completely engaged in their own education. Some of the basic strategies of active learning include whole class discussions, debates, paired activities, and individual reactions and responses. The main goal is encourage an active, attentive listening and learning environment by making students accountable for their own learning.
2. Use Technology When Possible
The incorporation of multimedia tools to deliver educational messages continues to increase, particularly at lower levels where they can also be leveraged as methods to grab and keep children’s attention. These multimedia tools for educators include Voki, SoftChalk, Screenr, and SMART boards.
3. Have Students Practice Doing Multiple Things at Once
For very young students, this might be singing a song while tying their shoes or listening to a recording while coloring. It might seem counterintuitive to have kids focus on a several tasks at once, but giving them multiple simple tasks to do concurrently can help train their brain to focus more acutely on a set of given tasks. When they have two things to think about, they are less likely to become bored and lose focus.
4. Keep an organized space.
Whether you’re doing work in your office or studying at home, having a clean space can help you focus and get your work done with much more concentration. Remove anything that can distract you from your work and isn’t relevant to the task. Clean off your desk to include only the things you need to work, leaving just a few photos or mementos to help you relax a bit.
- If you spend just ten minutes cleaning your space at the end of every day, you’ll be able to maintain your new organized lifestyle.
- If you don’t need your phone to do your work, put it away for a few hours. Don’t let it clutter your space and distract you.
5. Make a To-Do List
Making a to-do list at the beginning of every day or week can make you feel more focused and motivated to continue your work. If you make a list of all the things you have to do, no matter how small, you will feel more accomplished when you check those items off your list and move on to the next task. This will also keep you focused on one task at a time.
- You can separate your to-do list into three lists: things to do that day, things to do the next day, and things to do that week. If you finish the tasks for that day but have some time left over, you can move on to the next set of tasks.
- Prioritize your tasks. Put the most important or hardest tasks first. It’s better to save the easier or more manageable tasks for the end of the day, when you’re more tired and less compelled to complete the hardest tasks. If you put off the hard tasks until the last minute, you’ll be dreading getting them done all day.
- Include breaks in your to-do list. You can reward yourself with breaks. If you finish three tasks, you can have a small snack, or make a quick phone call to your friend, for example. This will make you even more focused on completing the tasks at hand.
6. Manage your time
Managing your time goes hand in hand with making a to-do list. Next to each item on the list, write about how long it’ll take you to accomplish each task. Be realistic about this estimate. Then, try to complete each task within the confines of each time limit. This will make you less likely to slack off or text your friend for an hour instead of actually getting anything done.
- You can break up more time-consuming tasks with shorter, easier tasks. That way you won’t be overwhelming by too many tough tasks in a row. You can think of the shorter tasks as a mini-reward.