Focusing attention

Separating what is important from what is not

Attention is the currency of human existence, our social selves. It is how we bond with our environment and each other. At times we want to escape its control. At other times we desperately need to be held in its embrace. Give me a hug, please. Or yell when I act out. It’s my way of demanding that you truly acknowledge me.

“Pay attention!”
When is the last time you heard that command – or plea?

Teachers and parents know that garnering attention is the secret to success in communicating with children or teens. Without focus, no amount of logic or reasoning gets through to them. Our voice becomes a continual hum of “blah, blah, blah.” Sound without meaning. So what is the secret?

Engagement is the way we focus the mind

Think of the foreground of an image versus the background. It is called the figure-ground relationship by psychologists. All of the information is present in the image, but the foreground stands out.

Parents begin developing attention with their children by pointing. Babies learn to connect pointing with importance. Eye-hand coordination is an early example of how we connect perception to objects.

Scaffolding instruction

Scaffolding and ladder of education

Engagement is like a staircase. It is built step by step.

Passive versus Active Processes

This fascinating new study raises questions about the efficacy of video and animation versus static images in learning. In many cases, a less cluttered field and less movement make retention and learning easier. The questions Cris Castro raises in the research are well framed and worth thinking about.

pay attentionNeed some concrete teaching ideas?
Keep students engaged and focused with these discussion strategies for increased student engagement.

How long can we concentrate/

Is it really only 8 seconds? This article by Pattie Shank debunks the research behind the myth of declining attention span. She explains the multi-step model originally developed by Sohlberg & Mateer:

  1. Focused attention (easiest level)
  2. Sustained
  3. Selective
  4. Alternating
  5. Divided attention (most difficult level)

Attention and curiosity

Let’s think deeply for a minute and ask: Does learning require curiosity?

Curiosity is as much the parent of attention, as attention is of memory.
Richard Whately

Curiosity is essential to the teaching and learning process. Therefore, we need to keep our conversations and instruction engaging and genuine. We need to encourage discovery. It is at the heart of motivation and strong, positive relationships.