The following study adaptations or modified learning strategies are ideally suited for children having difficulty paying attention to tasks and completing assignments. Teachers can easily adapt these strategies for classroom use or to use with several students at a time.
- Before the child begins to work on a task, have him identify and list the steps for completing it, including a time estimate both for each step and for the whole task. You can write the estimates on a piece of paper or index card to prompt the child when the time to complete each step is near.
- Write the list of steps on an index card (a key word or a key phrase for each step is enough), and have the child write the same list on a notepad or an index card. As the child completes each step, she crosses out the step off the list.
- Provide a timer or stopwatch for the child to monitor her work time.
- Give the child ample warning when an activity is about to change. For example, you can say, “You have five more minutes of work time left. In five minutes, we move to _____.”
- Make sure the child knows exactly how long he has to work on the task. Set up benchmarks like, “Pages 12 and 13 should be completed by 11:15.”
- Read the directions aloud, and have the child follow along, underlining or highlighting the most important information, explanations, key words, and/or steps. In addition, the child writes the correct number above each step, e.g. 1, 2, and 3.
- Break a longer task into several smaller and easier tasks. For example, using index cards or a notepad, the child writes down each smaller step required to complete the assignment. The child works on one index card or step at a time, keeping all the other index cards out of sight. As the child completes each step, he throws away the card for that step, moving to the next index card.
- Give reduced assignments to your inattentive child, so that he can complete work independently and for longer time. For example, the inattentive child completes only five problems of the twenty problems on a page, or completes the odd numbered problems but not the even numbered problems.
- You can reduce the amount of visual material that the child needs to pay attention to by drawing a circle around or tracing with your finger (framing) the important information on the chart or diagram. Teach the child to consistently draw circles around and/or highlight important visual information.
- When you are handling an inattentive and unfocused child, keep your expectations humble and real. One task left without completion is not a big deal when the child managed to finish two other tasks. The two completed tasks, however, are a big deal; acknowledge the child’s success and reward her effort.
On my 11-page article, Helping the Unfocused Mind: Teaching Strategies for Students Having Difficulty Getting and Maintaining Attention, the important issue of attention problems in schools, including a wide variety of strategies, is explored in full. To read the article, click here.
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