How to learn to concentrate
I wish I had a pound for every parent who said “If only he would just learn to concentrate.”
It's a comment that appears frequently and seems to be at the root of all learning. The fact that “my child can't concentrate” is blamed for all the problems. There have been studies involving diet, exercise and a number of other factors. Some are ignored, some end up as a daily pill. Either way it seems to be an issue that won't go away.
For most of us the major cause of lack of concentration can boil down to environment and expectation. The environment can be more easily controlled but managing the expectation will have a much better result.
When did you last hear these? ‘too much noise' ‘too many distractions' ‘just concentrate and it'll be OK' ‘I'm bored' ‘it's too hard.'
It seems obvious to turn off the TV in order to aid concentration. But, how many try cutting down the workload? The truth is even as an adult it's very difficult to concentrate for more than 20 minutes. We're just not built that way.
There are few jobs that require absolute concentration. The people who perform them have trained for years to an extremely high standard.
How can we then expect our children to concentrate? The key ingredient is workload and expectation. It's far better to encourage 10 minutes worth of productive work than 2 hours of failure. Try working for 10 minutes and then kicking a football for 10. Then come back again after you've given your brain a chance to absorb the information.
I'm not suggesting that every subject is contained in 10 minute blocks but the ability to concentrate is learned over a period of time. It can't just happen because you've got an hour worth of homework. Building in small steps, successful outcomes, praise and achievement all contribute.
Sometimes it seems that “thoroughness” has been overtaken by “learning objectives.” It's a little old fashioned to spend time learning to do one thing well. But practice does make perfect. A child will develop more confidence if they feel they have “mastered” their lesson for the day.
That confidence leads to increased concentration. The child is more likely to listen to the first two sentences the teacher says. They will ask if they don't understand and lessons become more enjoyable.
Small steps each day can lead to giant leaps. So why worry about learning 3 or 4 objectives in one sitting?
I'd much rather see a student who knows multiplication thoroughly. You can build on that. The child who knows a little about everything – most of which they are not sure of – is a much harder proposition.
What do you think?
Note: There are a few children who can be professionally diagnosed with ADHD or other factors. These are the exception and there are organisations that do a fantastic job in this specialised area.