Be a Model of Attention-ology

Hi and welcome back to Attention-ology for K – 5 Teachers!

Stop at your door the next time you enter your classroom and look around the whole instructional space. What catches your eye first? What’s the focus of the teaching zone(s)? What looks fresh and inviting?

Before you step any further, ask yourself if your room looks as distracted as you sometimes feel? Probably not, but it doesn’t hurt to periodically pretend that you’ve never set foot in your classroom before and ask yourself how it makes you feel. Energized or overtasked? Open to opportunities or stuck in second gear?

Most teachers have limited resources to use in creating spaces that are conducive to learning, and my experience tells me that many teachers are wizards at taking to heart the Depression-era expression: “Use it up, wear it out, make do or do without.” Still, I believe that you can enhance your teaching effectiveness (and enjoyment) by looking with new eyes at your teaching space.

Okay…that’s all about space. Now what about face – your face -your demeanor – your ability to be an attention-ology role model for your students? Research abounds, especially research from the mid-1990s on, about adults complaining of feeling overstretched, overbooked, overloaded, and the connection between these sensations and the proliferation of technology is evident.

If adults, teachers included, have difficulty handling multi-tasking that can get out-of-control, think of what kind of negative model we may be for our students…unless we keep ourselves in check. The scary thing is that if we don’t practice ways to control information overload when we’re in or out of school, off-line or online, we may become models of distraction without even knowing it.

Following are four simple steps to sharpen your own attention skills (Note: you can share these tricks, after some modifications to make them age-appropriate, with fifth, fourth, and possibly third grade students):

  1. Make a note – This may be obvious, but when you’re online and you either think of something you need to do or get drawn to an article or ad that is not related to your purpose for being online to begin with, make and note and get back to it later.
  2. Use your brain muscles – Did you know that the part of the brain needed for focusing has to be toned to be fit? According to research, too much multitasking, too much busy-ness keeps us from exercising the brain muscles that allow us to focus. Reading, really reading a book, and the act of meditation are proven remedies for relieving stress and maintaining attentiveness.
  3. Unplug altogether – Literally and figuratively, it’s healthy to let your computer “go down” by taking a physical exercise break from online activities. It’s no news flash that parents and teachers are looking for creative ways to encourage more outdoor play for children.
  4. Become a culture critic – Ask yourself (and then ask your class) if you/they really believe that your focus is on what’s important. Get ready for some interesting conversation!

Here’s a piece of research-based good news for teachers looking for additional ways and whys to help students stay on task in class:

When you limit your distraction-laced information intake, limit multitasking and reduce the rush rush of life, the areas of your brain associated with decision-making and goal achievement are strengthened. Kids may yawn at this concept; if they do, suggest a better night’s sleep!

Remember, you don’t need to be a magician to work magic in instructional settings!

Talk with you next week,

BarbaraThe Lovable Poet

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Barbara Cleary has been serving as a resource to hundreds of educators for more than 25 years. An award-winning writer, producer, teacher, and trainer, Barbara’s focus is on offering easy, fun tools and tricks that support K-5 curricula and assist teachers with classroom management.
Quick tips for common classroom conundrums: K-5
Situation: Students continue to use lackluster verbs in their writing.

Solution: Show toy cars and pretend to make them zip across a page, telling the class that good writing includes action words (verbs) that have "zip." Ask the class for examples of "zippy" verbs like zoom, race, flash, rush, etc.

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