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Uff! They Just Do Not Focus

‘He is so Distraaaaac…te..eee.e.d, I just can’t get him to listen to the class.’ Ever heard a teacher say this line? This article will quickly delve into multiple reasons why a child does not focus in class.

Aristotle argued that distraction could be a result of a clash between activities that are more or less pleasant to us. Which is why it is easier to do something pleasing than something challenging. But you would have also heard the saying that the mind is a monkey that keeps jumping from one thing to the next. So, do we get distracted willingly or unwillingly? How does this play out in the context of children?

Let us first look at medical/psychological conditions that affect a child’s focusing ability:

1.     Anxiety

2.     Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

3.     Stress or Trauma

4.     Learning Disorders

5.     Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder

Let us also rule out multi-tasking and assume that all children are focused on only one task, i.e. they are paying selective attention to that one task at hand.

Distraction depends on three factors:

1.     The task at hand: If it is too easy, or too difficult we get distracted

2.     The nature of the distracting element: Multisensory distractors may affect selective attention ev


Children in class
How to get Children to Focus

en more strongly than distractors that are either auditory or visual. This does not depend on how easy or difficult the task is.

3.     Age: Children tend to have a smaller amount of attention to pay than do adults. Add to this, the phase of adolescence. During this time, researchers state that adolescents are more oriented towards rewarding results, and that "there is simply too much going on in the brains of adolescents."

58% of teachers surveyed said that they felt children lost social skills and got distracted easily after the Covid-19 lockdown.

That aside, the next global change that comes into play is the technological advancement and the nature in which information is communicated across the world. American Journalist Nicholas Carr discusses how our brains have transitioned from slower, more attentive brains to ones that focus on shallow, surface-oriented, novelty-seeking organs in these “highly distractible times.” He argues for this by bringing in the neurobiological perspective in his book The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains.

However, this is not a one-way street, as Carr goes on to discuss the concept of flux. He says that our brain is always in flux and quickly adapts to internal and external changes. So, if we constantly swipe up and down, and sideways for our next content, and not give time to read a longer article, and spend time without gadgets, we are slowly losing out on the ability to the latter. So maybe, we can train ourselves slowly into reading more information, and watching good content?

Below are a few points that discuss how distraction can be dealt with in the classroom setting. Very often, understanding the cause of the problem, helps us find a solution for the same.

1.     Lack of organisation: Unnecessary movement and lack of good organisation is something that can be easily avoided with good planning.

2.     Inability to understand study material: When students find it difficult to comprehend their study material, they tend to get distracted

3.     Taking breaks when necessary so that both the teacher and student can pay complete attention when doing the task and are not drained out.

4. Rewarding the student for completion of the task. Similarly, negative reinforcement in a healthy manner to prevent disruptive behaviour will also help.

5.     Making the topic interesting and relatable.

6.     Discussing with the student either one-on-one or in small groups as to why they are distracted could help get a better understanding.

7. Establishing a quick procedure to get the class back on track when they seem too distracted.

The natural state of the human brain might be to be distracted, to know as much as possible about what’s going on around us. But the greatest of human achievements are a result of sustained focus and attention.

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