One of the biggest challenges for teachers and parents alike is successfully capturing the attention of their students. When we teach, they need to listen and process what they hear, right?
Traditionally the clearest signs of a child paying attention are that he/she is sitting still, looking at me, and obviously listening. Is this what we are trying to achieve?
Many children in a typical classroom
Usually, situations aren’t as they appear on the surface. If half or more of students in a classroom aren’t paying attention, it isn’t necessarily that the teacher is lacking in skill. It is also not necessarily that the kids are naughty. There is probably something else going on.1. According to *Dr. Carly Hannaford, neuroscientist, and educator, up to 85% of students are kinesthetic. This little fact changes everything. Dr. Hannaford states that only 15% of children can process linearly, look at the teacher when he/she is talking and can repeat back what they heard. So, our dream of having attentive kiddos in class is not going to be realized – not without some serious changing up. More about that later.
1. Just know that when they listen, it is likely they won’t be looking at you. Probably they will be looking off to the side trying to turn words into pictures. Establish a system with them that when you speak, they raise a finger or signal you in some way that they hear you.
2. When giving directions, your kinesthetic kids will pay attention when you show them how to do something rather than telling them how to do it. This is because they are attuned to something they can see and they can imagine themselves actually doing the steps.
3. Focus will be on whatever their hands or body is doing, so when you teach something, give the kinesthetic child materials that are related to what you are saying and focus will follow. For example, instead of paper and pencil to learn about making change with money, use real objects with prices on them (or even pictures of items with prices) and let them actually count out coins and bills to make change.
4. If you encourage your kinesthetic learner to move in a way that will help him/her focus, everyone will be happier. The ground rules are these: The child has to be able to focus better than when just sitting in the desk quietly, and they cannot disturb anyone else. So, if the child needs to swing his leg, or even stand up and lean over the desk – that is fine. Maybe the child needs to pace the back of the room while reading.
5. Show the child you understand his/her learning strengths. The more he understands how he learns and has the tools that will help, the better things will go. Rather than being on the outs all the time, your kinesthetic kids will actually know how to help themselves excel. A kinesthetic child, even a very young one, can learn that he/she will focus better on a sheet of math problems if they use their pointer finger to point to each problem they work on.
6. Use resources that engage the child visually and with meaningful movement as they learn. In this way, you will not be trying to work around the child’s very natural way of learning. Let the resources work for you and for the child!
If you feel your child’s learning environment or learning resources could better match your child’s natural learning strengths and you would like to discuss how to help, please contact us.
*Dr. Hannaford has 30 years of teaching experience, including 20 years as a professor of biology and 4 years as a counselor for elementary and intermediate school children with learning difficulties. She is an internationally recognized educational consultant since 1988, making more than 500 presentations world wide on the neural basis of learning. Dr. Hannaford has been recognized by Who’s Who in American Education.