Fixation error – This is where we keep on following the same process even though it has become clear that it is no longer working. It is very easy, as a confident teacher, to blame the kids rather than yourself when something goes wrong and stick rigidly to favourite lesson plans.
Which got me thinking about the myth that states that modern children all have a short attention span. I hear the statement trotted out all the time and I don’t agree with it.
In my experience, some children do have a short attention span – usually boys, who fidget about, desperate to get outside and kick a ball. Give them a ball and do they have a short attention span? No, they keep playing football until it’s dark and have to be dragged home.
When I tell stories or show children how to draw, I often get the same reaction from teachers “Oh my goodness, the children sat and listened to you for a whole hour and they’re only five and they didn’t go to the toilet!” and “Oh my goodness, these children are following your drawing instructions!”
Now I know it’s easy for me, swanning into a school for a day. I’m something different – a break from routine. But in my experience, if anyone has a short attention span it is usually the adults, who can be chatting away at the back of the room while I’m performing, or doing their marking – yes, right in front of me and the children! (You should hear some of the horror stories other authors tell!)
What I do is a performance which usually leaves me drained at the end of the day. No one can keep that level up everyday to get the children’s attention, but I feel to say all children have a short attention span is not true.
I see children having to be dragged away from the table when I’m doing drawing with them. I see their rapt faces listening to the story I’m telling – I’ve learned that it is not me, but the story itself that has the power. Stories have a magical power to hold anyone’s attention.
What’s probably is true is that there is just too much going on – school – telly – internet – video games – real world games – people – family – social media – books – films – reality – virtual reality – Youtube – fashion – advertising – peer pressure – the list goes on and on never mind after school clubs and extra mural lessons. When and where is a child supposed to focus their attention?
It was slower for us pre-internet oldies. You can cut out half of the distractions in that list – we didn’t have to worry about them. We had more time to be bored. I seem to remember my teachers complaining about that. We would always say “I’m bored” and drive them mad!
Children today don’t have time to be bored, they’re too busy keeping up, flitting from one thing to another to fit it all in. From the outside, it presents as a short attention span, but they do still have the power of attention, just don’t keep distracting them!
Stories are a brilliant practice ground for focussing attention. Stories lure you on and on and on…
Don’t blame the kids. They haven’t changed. We’ve changed the world around them don’t quite realise it, while dumping all this modern, distracting stuff on them. Give them some time – maybe even let them get a bit bored?
I’ve started making videos for Curious.com which is a new life-long learning website. YouTube is great, but as a video maker, you have to concentrate on entertainment rather than teaching. Curious.com has the ambition to enable teachers to make a living from their videos.
Their style and delivery are much more amenable to learning. Follow this link and get $25 of their coins free and try it out and let me know what you think. I’ve seen a lot of this kind of thing but I feel they have got a good system running.