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3 ways to teach a child how to pay attention in school

School student focussed and engaged in learning and school workParents, when you saw your child’s most recent school report there may have been a few telling buzz words that crept in again and again: unfocussed, too social, easily distracted. And, if I’m honest, my own reports from school probably said the same.

As a teacher, I have seen that lack of engagement in the classroom is the number one reason for underachieving. This is true of so many of our students; our sons and daughters. As a kid, I didn’t know I was under-performing because I didn’t know what I was capable of when I placed my full attention on something. I didn’t know how focus. Neither do a lot of people now.

Smart phones, social media, busy schedules and always feeling under the pressures of time distract us from the present and the task at hand.

So how do we teach our kids to engage in the classroom? In life?

We teach them how to pay attention!

The greats in history in any field, be it Maths, Science or Philosophy, both isolated themselves from distraction and paid attention to one task or one problem until it was solved.

The most valuable resource we have is time. Time is a currency we cannot earn more of. Pay attention, spend time, we invest our days. So what do we spend it on? Are we really paying top dollar for our priorities or are we offering up discounted version of our focus?

How do we help our kids learn the skill of paying attention?

Role model

What are you doing right now other than reading this article? Cooking dinner? Watching TV? Parenting? Checking your work email? Is the radio on? Are you also texting a friend? Making a plan of what you need to buy at the supermarket for dinner? Or thinking about the next job on the house? Are you having a conversation with your kid while looking at a screen?

Are you being mindful of the task at hand or is your mind too bloody full? Under the guise of multitasking, we are becoming proficient at doing a number of things poorly.

Monkey see, monkey do. Yes, I just called you, your spouse, your sons and your daughters monkeys. Monkeys, all of you.


Do less. Leave the phone in the other room, turn off the TV and the radio. Can you cope? Can your kid cope? Can either of you sit in an empty room and not complain about being bored? If you can, you can probably focus. If you can’t…

Encourage curiosity

The cure to boredom is curiosity. Ask questions. Wanting an answer is the definition of engagement in the classroom.

So at the end of the day, do not ask your child what s/he learned at school. Ask what questions s/he has about what s/he learned at school? Then find the answers together.

About Adrienne Buckingham

Adrienne is an optimistic traveller who, while seeking a life less ordinary, settled herself in the suburbs of New Zealand. She is a mother to three girls, a stepmother to one boy and a teacher to about 120 teenagers a ...

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