Manage attention problems in 15 steps

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It is needless to say that the attention is needed in every segment of our lives, but when you have startegies in enhancing attention and managing attention problems your learning is more productive and you achieve better results.

The listing below is by no means exhaustive, but it is rather meant as a place to begin. There is no doubt that the best resources for strategies are the creative, inventive minds of enlightened assessment professionals, teachers and parents, in partnership with the students they serve. Only, together they can create multiple alternative strategies.

1. The mystery needs to be taken away

The first and perhaps the most important management strategy is to insure that all students understand how attention works. From here they can identify their particular profiles of attention strengths and weaknesses. After this, the students should be taught attention management strategies.

2. Consistent inconsistency understanding

Teachers and parents should understand that the inconsistency of children with attention problems is not definitely an evidence of a poor attitude or lack of motivation. This is a part of their biologically based attention dysfunction, and is beyond their easy control.

3. Medication to be considered if needed

For many children and adolescents, medication might be helpful in dealing with attention difficulties. Medication can improve mental alertness and the intensity and duration of concentration. It may diminish impulsivity and hyperactivity. The student and his parents may wish to explore this option with his physician.

4. Movement and breaks to be allowed

The students who have problems with inconsistent alertness and mental effort have to be provided with opportunities to move around. For example, teachers at school could ask the student to erase the board, collect papers or take a message to the office. At home, parents and/or the student might schedule regular breaks and change work sites. The student could work several minutes at the kitchen table and several minutes on the living room floor. Every time the location is changed, the student may experience a burst of mental energy. If the students need to be doing something with their hands while seated, they may be allowed to doodle, roll a piece of clay or perform some other manual tasks that enhance their alertness and arousal.

5. Different instructional strategies

Teachers have to use a variety of instructional strategies and these should be changed approximately every 15 to 20 minutes. For example, they could deliver information for 15 minutes via lecture, upon which they have could have cooperative learning for 20 minutes. Next, students can be engage in individual seatwork or watch a video.

6. Signals should be used

The teachers and the parents should have a private way of signaling students when they are tuned out. For example, a gentle tap on the shoulder, an encouraging smile or head nodding can be effective. Also, the student’s teachers and parents may need to signal him/her when something important is about to be stated. Looking right at him/her, the teacher or the parent could say, “Listen carefully, I am about to give you important instructions about tomorrow’s test.”

7. Interests leverage

Attention is enhanced when an interest is heightened. Students should be encouraged to read, write and talk about the subjects in which they are interested. Their attention is enhanced when information is personally relevant to them. Let’s say the student need to learn a chronological timetable. In this case the teacher could begin with having the students develop a chronological timetable of the important events in their own lives.

8. Minimize noise and other distractions

Students who are easily distracted will benefit from a structured auditory environment. They may need preferential seating near the front of the classroom, so that noise and distractions from other students are minimized.

9. Develop previewing and planning skills

Teachers and parents can help students develop previewing and planning skills by requesting them to formulate plans for writing reports and completing projects. For instance, when completing a book report, the students could submit plans for how they are going to accomplish this task. They will likely need specific instruction, modeling, guided practice, and finally feedback on performance. The concept of previewing should be explained to the students and they should be aware that the activities they are engaging, will help them develop previewing/ planning skills. It is helpful if they are given practical examples of planning, such as planning for a party.

10. Use behaviour modification and self-assessment

The use of behaviour modification and self-assessment strategies is helpful in increasing desired behaviorus (like task completion) and/or decreasing behaviour problems (e.g. impulsive blurting out during class). The specific behaviours that need to be changed should be identified (e.g. completing reading classwork, raising hand before answering questions, brushing teeth before going to bed, putting dirty clothes in laundry). The specific consequences for behaviour change should be identified. The consequence for positive behaviour must be more rewarding to the student than failure to complete the positive behaviour. For example, if the child is allowed to stay up an extra 10 minutes in the evenings, this behaviour must be more rewarding than leaving his/her dirty clothes on the bathroom floor. Performance of the targeted behaviour must be the only way that the student is able to obtain the reward. The child is only able to stay up the extra 15 minutes at night, if he/she puts his dirty laundry in the designated place. School-home notes can be used to communicate back and forth between home and school. In both settings, charts and graphs can be used to monitor progress toward the goal. Students should be encouraged to assess their own behaviour and at the same time be aware that they are being assessed by the adult. Remember that they could be given an additional reward for accurate self-assessment.

11. Frenetic work patterns should be discouraged

To help students refrain from rushing through their work, teachers and parents could avoid making statements such as, “You can go out to recess, as soon as you finish your assignment” or “You can watch television, when you finish your homework.” These may inadvertently encourage students to work too quickly and carelessly, and nobody will benefit from this.

12. Get organised

A notebook or a word document, with three sections labeled “Work to be completed,” “Work completed” and “Work to be saved” may be used to help students organise their assignments. Colour – coding notebooks for different subjects, may also be helpful for organising work.

13. Use daily planners

A student has to use a structured daily planner to help him/her organise his assignments and activities. A planner broken down by subject within the day and has sufficient room to write all the information he/she needs would be preferred.

14. Home office to be set

At home, parents should guide their child/adolescent with setting up his/her own well – organised “office”. Parents have to schedule a weekly time that their child/adolescent will dedicate to straightening up the office and making sure all office supplies are well-stocked (e.g. post-its, pencils, pens, highlighters, paper, paper clips, stapler, computer, light…etc). The student should find his/her best time(s) for studying (his/her most alert times of day), and post on a visible place these times as his/her “Office Hours.” The student should also experiment with different kinds of background noise levels that work best for him/her when doing homework of studying. Some children/adolescents actually concentrate better in a noisy environment, while listening to music, while others may need to use ear plugs.

15. Time to wind down

Many students that have attention problems have trouble falling asleep at night. This is why it is helpful for them to have an established routine for going to bed at night. This is why they could read a book or have a book read to them. They can engage in stretching exercises before getting in bed. They could drink a glass of milk, tea or hot chocolate prior to going to bed. They might also listen to quiet, easy music while falling asleep. “White noise” such as a fan, may also be helpful in facilitating sleep.

I hope you will find these tips useful, regardless of the fact id you are taking online classes or traditional ones. If you would like to learn more you can check for more at:

Classroom management strategies – 5 classroom management strategies to get student attention
Online Student Engagement Tips and Strategies

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