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We can all lose interest, concentration and focus from time to time, but for many students this is an everyday issue, and is something, which creates a barrier to learning.

So what are the causes and how can we help and support these learners?

Well firstly, lets address some of the causes that might distract students from their focus. A lack of sleep, as we all know, will negatively impact ones ability to concentrate. The National Sleep Foundation reports that teenagers require between 8 and 10 hours of sleep each night to function optimally. Most teens do not get enough sleep, or at the very least, not that level of quality of sleep that they need, often distracted by technology and 24-hour access to their friends.

Stress can also affect any person of any age, and although most of the time it is manageable, parents and educators should be additionally vigilant in the imminent run up to the exam period. Bear in mind that many IGCSE students will be taking in excess of 30 exams in a very short period.
Another key cause that can often easily be remedied is making sure our students avoid feeling hungry and dehydrated. This sounds obvious, but the recent studies suggest that dehydration, and even simply feeling slightly hungry as an adolescent, can form major barriers to learning. On top of these obstacles we also have medical conditions and learning difficulties that many students and their parents face on a day-to-day basis.

Having worked with students and families for many years, I have heard on all too many occasion, “My child gets distracted too easily and is unable to pay attention at school, to their homework, in their piano lesson!”, and so on… Quickly followed by, “How is he able to focus on video games and TV for hours and hours?”
The answer is a simple one, when we listen to something we are familiar with or which interests us more, we are naturally inclined to focus on that subject and listen for longer. However, when we have to focus on unfamiliar things, we need to spend more energy to understand it, to correlate it with other familiar things, and then, retain it in the memory. This can lead to an early onset of mental tiredness, resulting in disinterest. All very draining indeed!

So, perhaps you will not always be able to promote the value of cubed roots over those of Grand Theft Auto V, however, there are some things that we can do to enhance a student’s concentration and focus when faced with the challenges of school life.

5 Tips to improve concentration

  1. Identify the right study time. Some children can work better in the morning and others in the evening. Figure out what time they are relaxed and refreshed. Choose the appropriate time for homework. You may choose to break the homework into two slots, one in the morning and the other in the evening.
  2. Stay close and get involved in child’s activities to keep them on task. Most children need reminders to focus.
  3. Break larger assignments into smaller parts and work on one part at a time. It’s very natural for children to get overwhelmed.
  4. Allow them to take small breaks while moving from one task to another.
  5. Avoid giving too much of information at a time, as it freezes the brain and decreases the capacity to make decisions, and more importantly, think clearly and creatively.

Thanks for reading and good luck! For an interesting take on the puzzle of motivation, take a look at Daniel Pink’s TED talk ➡ https://www.ted.com/talks/dan_pink_on_motivation

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