Don’t we all have times where we have trouble focusing on that task at hand? Kids are no exception.
ZooKid had a really hard time concentrating on his math lessons at the beginning of the year. The lessons were focused on mental addition (even into the hundreds), and he was really struggling with it. When math time came, he would get really nervous, and his attention span went to zero. It would take him an hour to do work that should take only 20 minutes at most. What was going on?
Problem-Solving the Issue
Well, I couldn’t solve the problem until I knew exactly what it was. I started by asking and answering a series of questions:
- Is he struggling with the concepts and or bored of the lesson material?
- Does he understand the instructions?
- Is there something in the room that is distracting him?
- Am I doing math class at the wrong time?
- Does he just need a short break?
- Is there too much work?
- Is it just a case of the bad-attitudes?
For this particular case, the answer to all the above questions was ‘No.” He proved to me that he understood the lesson material. He could answer every question we did during the lecture. We hadn’t been doing the material long enough for him to get bored. I tried moving the time of the class. He had even more issues in the afternoon, which didn’t surprise me as I already knew that his more intense subjects had to be done in the morning; even if we did math first or second, these same issues arose. I tried giving him a break between the lecture and the worksheet, but coming back to the work after a break was even harder. I tried covering up part of his worksheet, so he wouldn’t be overwhelmed with the number of problems, and in some cases, even cut the number of problems he had to do in half, but he would struggle whether there were 5 problems or 10. Check out Problem-Solving the Struggling Learner: Finding Out the ‘Why’.
After going through all these strategies, I had to ask myself if he just had a bad attitude and was trying to get out of doing the work altogether. After really thinking about it, I had to answer ‘No’ again. Although ZooKid battles the monstrous bad attitude occasionally like all kids, this was different. What else could it be?
Conclusion & Solutions
After ruling everything else out, I finally realized what the problem was: the lessons were too intense. The mental math took a lot of concentration, and ZooKid was having a hard time dealing with the intensity. I know when I’ve been writing or planning, etc. for a long period of time, my mind just needs a little break. Our kids aren’t any different.
Here are some strategies I tried with him that worked:
Make It A Game: Taking the problems he had to do and disguising them in an interactive game lightened the mood and added some fun!
Lesson Chunking: Dividing his workload into smaller chunks and sprinkling them throughout the day seemed to help. Knowing he only had to do 2-3 problems at a time worked better than just covering up some of the problems because he still knew there were there lurking under the paper. I usually followed a mental math lesson chunk with something VERY fun and reinforcing to help motivate him.
Alternating Lessons: This, by far, worked the best. We would skip ahead to an unrelated unit farther in the book (like geometry or capacity) and do a lesson or two before coming back and doing another lesson of mental math. He was able to deal with the mental math lesson if he was only doing it once every 2-3 days.
Have you found your student in a place where lessons are too intense? What did you do? I would love to hear about your strategies! Comment below.
Till Next Time,