The classroom may be overstimulating; visual and auditory distractions need to be minimized. See Chapter 4 (Classroom Settings) for detailed information on minimizing distractions.
Reduce Visual Distractions
Visually, the classroom should allow a student to concentrate on the task at hand. Many classrooms have too much visual information.
- Strategically place the student’s seat away from distractions, such as doorways and windows
- Clear the student’s desk of everything, except the lesson at hand
- Put away (or out of view) teacher’s equipment and books competing for a student’s
Reduce Auditory Distractions
Auditory attention issues require the teacher to focus on reducing competing auditory distractions.
- Seat student closest to where you present information
- Seat student next to “good role model” students—those who do not distract others
- Provide nonverbal cues that are familiar to the student to keep students focused and working quietly:
- Tap shoulder lightly (if student isn’t hypersensitive to touch)
- Give eye contact
- Use hand signals
- Move close to student
Create quiet spots in your classroom
- Use carrels
- Refer to a quiet area as “The Office”
- Use extra tables or bean bag chairs, but not as punishment
- Encourage and praise students for choosing to work in a quiet spot
Engage Student Attention
When giving instruction, all you have to say is the child’s name, and then give the instruction to the whole class.
Everybody will hear it, but if you don’t say his name it’s not for him.
(Copeland and Rutman, 1996)
- Address the student by name when giving instructions
- Give a lesson outline to help anchor student attention
- Helps with organization
- Helps with listening comprehension
- When possible, teach to students’ interests
- Use random participation
Make Good Listening Skills a Habit
Teach students good listening skills
For example, say: “Pencils in your desks. Eyes looking at me. Hands on your lap.”
Plan Active Times
Alternate activities that require quiet desk time with lessons that allow for movement and activity. Students who are restless may benefit from having a class job that requires activity or being sent on a class errand. (Some students will find that some physical activity is too overstimulating). Do not keep students inside during recess.
Use Movement and Music to Help Student Focus
A quiet background of music can be calming.
- Teach concepts using music and rhythm
- Engage in choral reading
- Sing songs about a learned concept
- Use rhythmic activities
- Pair learning with an active motion
- Use a squeeze ball if there is a need for physical stimulation. A squeeze ball at the desk can help a student channel energy without disrupting others or losing focus.
- Use a sensory-inflatable seat cushion for students who need movement and tactile input without leaving their seats.
- Monitor students when they begin their assignment
- Check back frequently to help student refocus
- Teach students “self-talk” to help them stay focused
- Have students monitor their ability to “stay on task”
- Provide close supervision and monitoring
- Be positive
Additional Attention Strategies
- Have students work 1:1 or in small groups
- Use electronic tools, such as computers, tape recorders, and videos
- Medication may need to be explored with parents and a physician