You find that your child loses focus easily at school. The teacher has told you that she loses concentration by the end of the lesson; and as the day goes on it only gets worse.
You have tried punishing him by not letting him see friends until him marks improve but this does not seem to have any effect. Rewards seem equally futile. You tried bribery with a special toy or game he wanted by he didn’t seem to be motivated by the incentive.
The solution is simple
As the days drag on he only seems to be getting more and more behind and you are out of ideas as to what to do. Fear not the solution may be more simple then you think. The fact in that people, especially children, cannot concentrate for long periods of time. Take a 5-year-old for example. The maximum time they can concentrate for is usually around 15 minutes.
The answer to this common problem is to take regular breaks (which can also mean switching to some easy tasks like washing their hands). Breaking up a lesson into smaller more manageable sequences will make life a whole lot easier for the students. If a child is allowed to take a quiet break; that is not stimulating in any way, you may find that afterwards they are reenergized and able to focus once again on the task at hand.
Do not over stimulate during break time
What is important is to make sure that the break is not too entertaining or stimulating. The child should not be allowed to play on their phones or chat extensively with other children. It should be a quiet time; a time where the children are encouraged to sit in peace or walk around the room considering things that may be on their minds.
A recent study has shown that children are not the only ones who benefit from breaks. All of us can lose focus ager performing the same task for a long period of time.
A recent study
Psychology professor Dr. Alejandro Lleras from the University of Illinois headed the study. He claims that a drop in one’s “attention resources” is the cause of what is termed “vigilance decrement”. Vigilance decrement is the loss in focus we experience after doing a task for an extended period of time.
From sensory perception to thoughts
Lleras noticed that in sensory perception the brain gradually stops paying attention to sight, sound or feeling if that stimulus is consistent over time. For example, we do not pay attention to the feeling of our clothing.
Lleras says: “Constant stimulation is registered by our brains as unimportant, to the point that the brain erases it from our awareness.”
“So I thought, well, if there’s some kind of analogy about the ways the brain fundamentally processes information, things that are true for sensations ought to be true for thoughts. If sustained attention to a sensation makes that sensation vanish from our awareness, sustained attention to a thought should also lead to that thought’s disappearance from our mind!”
Lleras considered that sustained attention to a thought should also lead to the thought’s disappearance from our mind.
Findings of the study
Lleras and postdoctoral fellow Atsunari Ariga tested participants’ ability to focus on a repetitive computerized task for approximately one hour. The task was taken under a variety of conditions. It was found that over the course of the task most participants’ performance significantly declined.
Once group, however, called the “switch group” saw no drop in their performance. The switch group were given two brief breaks from their main task. The result was they were able to remain focused throughout the entire experiment.
Lleras suggests that prolonged attention to a single task does in fact hinder performance.
“From a practical standpoint, our research suggests that, when faced with long tasks (such as studying before a final exam or doing your taxes), it is best to impose brief breaks on yourself. Brief mental breaks will actually help you stay focused on your task!”said Lleras.
The same logic holds true for children. So simply factoring in break time into our children’s study regime could have positive ramifications. If you are a parent you may like to suggest this to your child’s teacher. You can also practice break time at home. As an educator you can try factoring in break time into your classroom schedule. You may find your students’ results improve dramatically.
Featured photo credit: Long Island Eye Doctor via longislandeyedoctor.com