I recently reviewed the results of a series of tests and something kept bothering me. Why did so many seemingly normal kids appear to have an attention deficit? Are we just getting better at identifying this problem or is something else going on?
In addition to measuring and testing kids for attention deficit, we need to reconsider our lifestyles and the ways we teach children. I believe that many attention problems are the result of learned behaviour.
Many kids can’t pay attention because they have not been taught the skill of concentration. I am not trying to claim that attention deficits do not exist; quite the contrary. However, many kids who have trouble paying attention do not have an attention deficit. They merely have a short attention span. I believe this is partly due to television, movies, video games and the quick pace of modern life. Our busy, busy lives have trained our cognitive processes to look for quick bites, fast answers.
It’s a learning process
So what can parents and teachers do about this? Spend quiet time with the children, read books, have long discussions uninterrupted by television or the telephone. That old advice to stop and smell the roses still holds true. We need to teach our kids how to learn and how to pay attention. In all but a few cases, paying attention is a learned skill. Children with true Attention Deficit Disorder cannot pay attention, but most kids today do not suffer from this disorder. Most of our children have not been taught how to pay attention.
Recently, my daughter filled our house with friends. It seemed as if 100 six-year-old girls had suddenly moved in. They created forts, nurseries, schools and stores. Every child was assigned a task. Some were storekeepers, some were parents, others were infants. Before assuming her role, almost every child took the time to prepare for it. Many rearranged their space while talking to themselves about whom they were and how they would act.
This was very interesting for me. They took time to reflect and consider. They prepared. They created their own space and demanded enough time to get ready to have fun! My daughter and her friends knew that they needed to concentrate, so they created an environment where that would be possible. Left to their own devices, kids seem to understand the need for quiet reflection, concentration and paying attention.
It is mostly in school-related activities that these skills go wanting. After watching these kids for a couple of hours, I thought about a typical classroom scene. There is little time for quiet reflection and even less personal space. Educational programs today are not designed for individuals; they are designed for groups.
Why is this the case? Why are our children attending daycare, kindergarten, and the primary grades one through three and not learning how to pay attention? All of these programs are supervised or taught by highly competent and well-trained individuals. Kids come and go through these delightful classrooms. They enjoy themselves. They follow the program. But what programs are they following? Where do these programs come from? Who writes them?
When your child comes home from school or daycare and tells you about the activities of the day, have you ever considered that they may not be appropriate?
Books have limited vocabulary
Every program being taught by teachers – and every textbook ever written – has an underlying set of ideas based on a philosophy. It is these ideas that determine the methods used by teachers (along with the material contained in textbooks). For example, those of us who are over 40 may remember a time when most of our reading material was found in books called readers, which had literary merit. A typical elementary school reader contained numerous stories of differing difficulty, stories to challenge and entertain pupils of various ages and abilities.
Go into a Grade 1 or 2 classroom today and you will find hundreds of small, colourful books full of simple words and pretty pictures. The books in today’s classrooms have a very limited vocabulary. Publishers strive to publish stories with “age appropriate” vocabulary. Why? Who decided this? Has it helped or hurt?
In the classrooms of the past, we were taught to read using phonics. We were able to read well in Grade 1 and 2 and we read from those old readers. Sure, the books had some pictures, yet our minds and imaginations supplied most of the excitement.
I knew what Moby Dick looked like; I saw him in my mind’s eye. That exercise in itself helped to develop concentration and attention. Using our inner eye – our imagination – helped us to develop the ability to focus and concentrate. We had to. We wanted to “see” what we were reading. We used our minds.
But there were other differences as well, such as vocabulary. We were reading from books containing literature. The vocabulary was demanding and the stories complex and exciting. (It is very difficult to make a story complex or exciting with limited vocabulary and more pictures than words.) Because we were enjoying the stories, we had to concentrate on the context of the story or we would not be able to understand what we were reading. That too forced us to concentrate.
Excerpt from Active Minds! by Dr. R. N. Whitehead, Director, Oxford Learning.
Read Attention Deficit Disorder or Simply Poor Concentration Skills? Part 2
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Do you ever feel overwhelmed after the school day is over and can’t find a way to shut off your brain? Focussing on homework might be last thing you want to do at that point. How can you overcome the resistance and get it done either way?
It seems like there’s always work to be done for your studies. Also at times when you can’t seem to concentrate.
So how do we get our minds to understand how to focus on homework? Especially when it’s is the last thing we feel like doing. Yet, we know that if we leave it for tomorrow, it will pile up and create even more pressure…
The right study habits and concentration techniques will most definitely help you out — and that’s exactly what we are going to explore in this article.
How To Focus On Studying In A World Of Distractions
We live in the era of distraction.
Countless factors are constantly fighting for our attention: social media, other people, things we could potentially be doing at any moment, our doubts, our overthinking, our anxious thoughts and expectations, the temptations around us (such as buying something shiny or eating junk food)… And all of this makes us feel as though we lose control over our mind.
If you’re wondering how to focus on homework and get better grades, then focus is something you need to get back at all cost.
Every student needs this skill.
We will discuss specific study habits later in this article, but first you need to understand how to focus on studying. For that, here are the two key principles that will make you (more) successful in your studies:
1. Identify The Distractions In Your Surroundings
What are the things in your daily life (and in your head, for that matter) that take your mind away from your studies (or any other task in front of you)?
Clearly identifying these helps you understand both the problem and what causes it. Understanding these leads us to finding the right solution to overcoming them.
While many of these types of distractions were mentioned earlier, digital distractions are one of the worst kind— and according to studies, their effect is on the rise in the classroom. If you’re looking to gain more concentration and thus, form better study habits, question your online behavior first and foremost.
2. Limit The Use Of Technology To Find Focus
What’s the role of social media in your daily life? Have you ever sat down to calculate not just how much time you spend on social media daily, but also how horribly it distracts you from doing the things you should be doing? When you are wondering how to focus on homework long after you’ve put your phone away, you’re still thinking about the last posts you saw on Facebook. The sound of new notifications might cause anxiety, or your own eagerness to see the reactions to a comment you left might distract you.
And then comes the information overload, the fear of missing out, and the all-too-common signs of addictive behavior. Technology is affecting your mind more than ever, and it’s taking your focus away.
But once you understand that you can improve your concentration by ditching the distractions, then it’s time to think about forming the right study habits. . .
4 Study Habits To Help You Learn How To Focus On Homework
1. Have a routine.
Routines help us be productive without exerting too much effort. When having homework to do, a study routine can be the reason we actually sit down, set enough time aside, concentrate, and stay focused until we complete the project.
This process doesn’t need to be complicated: just tell yourself that you will sit at your desk at home once you’re back from school (after a small meal and some rest, of course). Put your phone on silent, make an outline of the work that needs to get done, and simply begin with what’s most important.
2. Create an environment that breeds creativity and productivity.
You need a special place for studying. Don’t think you can just study anywhere, that’s not how our brain works. Lying in bed with your notebook is a distraction, as is being in the living room with your laptop while others are doing their activities.
You need an isolated place when you decide to focus on your homework. Make it feel comfortable, such as adding plants, organizing everything on your desk, decluttering (and keeping it clean), letting more light in, perhaps hang up some motivational posters/daily affirmations, etc.
3. Avoid certain things beforehand.
Wanna know how to focus on homework?
Don’t have a big meal beforehand. Big meals can ruin your focus and make you feel sluggish and lazy. A snack is okay. There are also some foods, though, that are just plain bad for your productivity; you can check them out here.
Avoid doing anything too engaging, as well, as then it can be hard to leave it and find willpower for your studies. Your better study habits are also affected by your self-control. So know when to stop doing something, calm your mind with some deep breathing, stretching, or even taking a walk, and then go do what needs to be done.
4. Organize your study notes.
One of the main reasons students avoid doing homework when the time comes, is that the “big picture” scares them. It seems like a lot to do, and they are overwhelmed on where to start.
So, prioritize. Keep lists and put the most important items on the top. Then work on the items that you should get done first.
Make an outline for everything and break it down into smaller steps. Then, use colors to highlight the essentials. This makes it all look much simpler and you’re more likely to actually get started.
5. Tell others to respect your study time.
People entering the room or calling you when you are trying to study isn’t good for your mind and creative energy. So simply let them know you need some privacy.
Decide on fixed hours for studying and tell them you won’t be available during that time of the day.
6. Try listening to study/focus music.
There are many tracks out there designed to help your mind focus. Whether you use binaural beats or just instrumental music, they can really help to tune your brain into a productive frequency.
This meditation music from OmHarmonics is also great to listen to; it puts your mind in a clear, concise, and ready-to-take-on-the-world mode:
7. Set deadlines.
Even if your teacher has already given you deadlines for each assignment, set new ones yourself at earlier dates. This helps you build discipline, learn how to focus on studying, and prioritize every day.
8. Have “brain breaks” more often.
You might not know this, but frequent breaks actually increase your productivity and focus. By understanding the science of homework, you’ll see that after each study session, the brain needs to be engaged with something different — you need to keep active another part of it, before going back to your studies, so that you can reach top performance.
So there you have it— that’s how to focus on homework when you really aren’t in the mood for it and feel more distracted than ever.
What other suggestions do you have?
And what study habits do you want to build next to improve your concentration?
Share with us in the comment section below!
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