PFE Article


From the Book PARENTING FOR EDUCATION: Revised Edition

“Stretch a Short Attention Span”

By Vivian Owens


Short attention spans probably account for as many low grades as other reasons combined. During my teaching years, I saw students improve remarkably well when parents talked with doctors, and medications were prescribed. Only a doctor can tell when medications are absolutely necessary. On the other hand, I, also, saw students improve “short attention spans” with several simple remedies. Please consider the following discussion.

The best time to stretch short attention spans is during the early years of child development. At this stage of life, all the world opens up to the child’s brain. His senses search for every nuance of sound and sight. Use this to strengthen and lengthen his attention to the world around him.

We can –

  1. Provide a single activity that will require his full attention. An activity that compels use of hands and eyes to follow. Make the activity easy and pleasant. Maybe soft music can play in the background. For example: Place two jars in front of you young learner. One jar is empty. The other jar is filled with gum drops or raisins. Ask your learner to transfer the gum drops—one at a time—into the empty jar. Give a reward at the end.
  2. Make use of folding activities. Prepare about twenty (20) colorful cloth squares for use. First, show your learner how to fold and ask him to neatly fold each square and place it in a neat pile. Dinner napkins folded each day fits into this same category.
  3. Train listening skills by asking your learner to listen to a CD or record of any type for increasing periods of time. Begin with a 5-minute listen on the first couple of days. On the third day and fourth days, listen for 10 minutes. By the fifth day, increase listening time to fifteen (15) minutes. CDs can be stories that you borrow from the library or a music album that allows the child to sing along.
  4. Engage in activities like playing the piano, where the fingers have to be in the right place. With piano or learning to play any musical instrument, a child must give full attention to the instruction, and that discipline is rewarded by achieving desired sounds and by the praise and compliments received. The same could be said for learning gymnastics or swimming. In order to achieve a modicum of perfection, full attention to instruction is required. In short time, however, the child determines that he/she is stronger and faster. Again, discipline is rewarded.

For any attention lengthening activities, you will want to plan to conduct the activities over a 30-day period, because you want to build habit and expectation.


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