Mind Wandering Enhances Learning

What's under and in the magic hat? Permission to enjoy Mini Mind Wandering Time!

What’s under and in the magic hat? Permission to enjoy Mini Mind Wandering Time!

Hats off to teachers…it’s time for Mid-Week Focus to uncover how mind wandering enhances learning at the end of a school term.

End-of-year or end-of-term activities can add to attention problems for students, especially kids who act as if they’ve mentally left for vacation already!

Here’s an attentionology trick to try to pull students back where they still need to be…

Catch your class’ attention by inviting students to enjoy “Mini Mind Wandering Time,” (MMWT) at a time when it’s clear students aren’t at their attention-best.

Imagine their surprise when you unexpectedly give them permission to NOT pay attention – that is, to not pay attention for a limited amount of time.

Entertain your students by making up a funny name for the poets you pretend to be quoting. In English, you might use a name like Ida B. Gonenow. Tell the class about her cousin, Ima G. Neverreddy.  Explain that Ida and Ima love to complain; their minds wander all the time. Ask your students to guess how well Ida and Ima do on end-of-term tests.

After you share some silly poems that you pretend were written by Ida and Ima, you might say that since it appears that many students share the feelings expressed by the poets, it’s worth taking time to mind wander like Ida and Ima, but ONLY for __________ minutes before “we all get back to work.”

Short  Silly Rhymes

What Time is It?

I’ve got a hunch,

it should be time for lunch.

Let’s ditch the math for a candy bar

and enjoy the crunch, crunch, crunch!

Get Me to the Pool, Please!

Let’s get out of here,

school is nothing dear.

Pack a picnic please,

add some sweets and cheese,

plus a bottle of something cool,

Get me to the pool!

"Oh no, Little Bear," you're in mini mind wandering time!"

“Oh no, Little Bear,” you’re in Mini Mind Wandering Time!”

Students will stay tuned in, too, if you use a puppet or stuffed animal to personify a mind wanderer.

In the middle of Spanish instruction, for example, put a puppet, like a little bear, on your hand. The kids will be all eyes on you.

Make it look like you’re speaking directly to the puppet and ask it to spell a word phrase in Spanish, like adios amigos.  Then, using a made-up “puppet” voice, make the puppet say “Huh? What? What’d you say?” as if its “mind” had wandered.

Ask the class to repeat after you – an attentionology trick of its own – repeating – and say, “Oh no, little bear, you’re in mini-mind wandering time!”

Besides using “Mini Mind Wandering Time” as an attention-getting trick – giving students a break from your class structure before you ask them to focus back in general – you can use MMWT to begin lessons, like Spanish.

Use MMWT as a pre-writing tool.

Pre-writing involves choosing a FOCUS for a poem or story. If students have trouble thinking of a fictional focus, encourage them to spend “Mini Mind Wandering Time.”

Ask where they wish they could be if they could be anywhere right now. Suggest that students jot down answers to that question. Traveling by memory or imagination can lead to some wonderful settings for writing…

…and learning.

If your kids are having a down day, tell them that you’d like to share a short story with them that will take their minds wandering. Announce that you need their help – another quick and effective attentionology trick – asking kids to help!

Explain that as you read your short story, you’ll be asking them to participate in different ways with quick commands, like “Hands up!” “Stand up,” “Sit down,” “Say it again with me please.” NOTE: You can break the story below into parts and use it on more than one occasion.

Ask the class to listen carefully for your story and your commands as you all spend some mind wandering time together. NOTE: Teacher’s commands are in capital letters inside parentheses.

Let’s Take a Break Outdoors!

Have you ever discovered that when your mind is cluttered (HANDS ON FOREHEADS) or you’re feeling down, a walk outdoors (STAND UP, WALK IN PLACE) is “just what

"In Mini Mind Wandering Time we can climb a tree!"

“In Mini Mind Wandering Time we can climb a tree!”

the doctor ordered.”

Some of us would rather run (RUN IN PLACE) than walk. Others like to ride a bike, walk a dog (BARK TWICE), play hide and seek (HIDE YOUR EYES), or climb a tree. (SIT DOWN)

However we spend time outdoors, the great outdoors offers us space, beauty that’s free to see, (REPEAT WITH ME – BEAUTY THAT’S FREE TO SEE) and a chance to remember that no matter what our worries may be, we can find comfort in the rhythms of nature. (SNAP YOUR FINGERS AND REPEAT WITH ME –  THE RHYTHMS OF NATURE.)

Different parts of every country in the world have different landscapes. What’s your favorite landscape? (HANDS UP FOR THE BEACH) (HANDS UP FOR MOUNTAINS) (HANDS UP FOR PARKS AND PLAYGROUNDS) (HANDS UP FOR HILLS) (HANDS UP FOR THE DESERT) NOTE: Add or delete landscapes if necessary to suit your location.

Do you long for a boat ride down a river (STAND UP AND ROW A BOAT) with wide open spaces on either side as the sun shines on Mini Mind Wandering Time? (SIT DOWN AND CLAP TO GIVE YOURSELVES A BIG HAND!)

Mind wandering enhances learning because it allows students and teachers to relax, but it also stimulates thinking. 

Let’s face it though; as the end of a term draws near, we’re all itching to get out the door!


I’ve asked it before,

I’ll say it again,

Why isn’t it yet

the school year’s end?

Look for a new Attentionology for K – 5 Teachers on Monday.

Talk with you again soon,

Barbara The Lovable Poet

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Posted in Mid-Week Focus
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.
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