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How Adults Can Support Attention


Study Skills & Tools All Ages Strategy


Self-regulation Organization Social Awareness Attention

How Adults Can Support Attention

If your student struggles to focus

When It Matters

Attention refers to one's ability to get started on work and then maintain focus on the activity or assignment. The key is to help students understand when it is easy to focus and when it is harder, and how to prepare for those tougher situations.

Attention is the skill that enables students to stay focused during an activity, even one that might not be much fun for them, such as homework or a long lecture. Supporting students' attention can help them work more effectively, stay better organized and manage their time so they are able to show their best work.

What To Keep In Mind When Supporting Your Student

  1. Students will likely need support with organization, following directions and follow-through.
  2. Be as clear and concise as possible when giving guidance or instruction. Less is more.
  3. Start with one strategy and expect that you might need to continue to support and reinforce many, many times before it becomes habit. Only add a new strategy after the first becomes a habit. Don't overload students.

Top Strategies

  1. Help students get organized. Make sure their classroom spaces are well-lit and stocked with everything they will need including paper, sharpened pencils, and highlighters.
  2. Guide your student to organize his homework space at home the same way. Other items to have on hand at home are a calculator and reference books.
  3. Offer your students a checklist to make sure that distractions such as phones or games are out of sight. They should understand that multi-tasking will make work harder.
  4. Teach your student to organize and use a daily planner for homework assignments. While students can use a digital planner, handwritten planners often are more effective.
  5. Help students create a homework plan that they can use each night.
  6. Build in movement and breaks when possible. Stress balls can often help students get rid of some excess energy.
  7. Reduce distractions for your student by having her sit in the front of the classroom and away from friends who might try to talk during class.
  8. Encourage active participation to help your student stay engaged.
  9. Ultimately, it is most important that your student begins to recognize and adapt when a weaker skill is interfering in learning. Middle or High School students can use this checklist to become more self-aware of their attention. Find additional ideas for a student who has an IEP or 504 Plan here.