We’ve all been there before – trying to work with a child that just can’t sit still or gets distracted constantly throughout the tutoring session. Focus can be very challenging for students, especially for young children or reluctant readers. They are still learning how to control their energy and focus their attention for longer periods of time. Here are some ideas you can teach your students to help them calm down and focus their energy on the task at hand. Have your own focus strategies that have proven effective? I’d love to hear them!
1. Champion Distractor: one player focuses on completing a task, while the other tries to distract him. To win the game, a player needs to be a good Distractor, and must be able to avoid being distracted.
2. Toothpaste: Have student squeeze their arm starting at the shoulder and moving all the way to the fingertips, one finger at a time. Repeat on the other arm. This helps them calm their bodies and minds.
3. One minute chat: If your student keeps diverting from the topic at hand, tell them that you will take 1 or 2 timed minutes to “let them talk”. You can set a timer on your phone or use the clock. After the timed minutes are finished, they must agree to get back to work.
4. Timers: When used as a self-monitoring device, timers can help children gain some self-control. They can be used to help a child stay focused and take a break or they can be set for smaller increments, say 30 seconds or a minute, to help children self-monitor. When the timer goes off, the child can check whether or not he is paying attention and on task. It’s important to let the child hold and monitor the timer so that he/she gets a sense of self-regulation. Timers from board games are a great tool to have with you!
5. Meditation: Research shows that mindfulness meditation can help children and adults improve attention, focus, and self-control. When I taught a combined pre-kindergarten and kindergarten class, we would sit for up to 5 minutes with our eyes closed, focusing on quieting our bodies and noticing our breathing. I wouldn’t have believed children this young could have actually sat quietly without moving for that long, but when you model and explain the benefits, they meet the expectations. Some of the children struggled to quiet their bodies more than others, but all were successful at quietly maintaining their stillness.