Attention Spans Aren’t What They Used To Be-
With the internet, technology, and our quick-paced society, everything is becoming faster. And this includes our brains. A couple of years ago, I read the article Is Google Making Us Stupid? by Nicholas Carr. He explained that with constant stimulus and access to the web, our brains can’t focus as well, are more distracted, and have trouble with retention. This applies to adults as well as children. I agree with his theory and have seen it first hand. During my student teaching, I had to constantly get the attention of my students, but it was even worse during my time at a middle school. I know for a fact that these teenage students spent a lot of time using technology, especially the internet and social media. They could not focus on anything. They were more distracted than the younger elementary students. A lot of it could have been teenage angst, but I think the use of technology played a big part in their focusing issues. I am sure that I am not the only teacher who has struggled with this.
Students’ attention problems are worrisome when it comes to future education. Technology will continue to grow and the amount of students using it will expand as well, which may lead to more children being inattentive. The article Energy and Calm: Brain Breaks and Focused-Attention Practices by Dr. Lori Desautals helps provide some solutions to this problem. The article explains that letting the brain rest will actually help improve memory and problem solving skills, which is beneficial for students. Desautals lists several activities that teachers can use in their classroom to help students refocus. The list is divided into two parts: Brains Breaks and Focus-Attention Practices.
Brain Breaks and Focused-Attention Practices
Brain Breaks are when the students take a break from the current routine and do another activity. Desautals explains that this helps to “refresh our thinking” and “process new information.” Many of the activities are creative games like Invisible Pictures, where one student draws a picture in the air and another student guesses what it is. Next, Dr. Desautals discusses Focused-Attention Practices, which are meant to quiet down all of the thoughts swirling around in the students’ heads. These exercises are a little more serious compared to Brain Breaks. They include activities like breathing and meditating, where the students focus on one thing at a time and calm down their nerves.
Brain Breaks Great For Elementary-
As someone who has sat through countless school days and lectures (on both sides of the fence), I agree that breaks and activities are needed to rekindle our minds. All of the activities listed would be extremely helpful in a classroom of rambunctious students. The Brain Breaks would fit well in an elementary classroom. Young students love to play games, be silly, and create things. The breaks give them an opportunity not only express themselves, but to also help them learn more efficiently. On the other hand, the Brain Breaks may not be appropriate for middle school or high school students. Older students may find the activities to be babyish, and may not take them seriously.
Focused-Attention Practices Better For Older Students-
Instead, the Focused-Attention Practices would probably be better for these students. Many kids in middle school and high school are going to be under a lot emotional stress due to school, social issues, and hormones. The breathing and meditation will not only help with their learning; it could help them with their emotional well-being too, which many teenagers need. In contrast, the breathing and meditation activities may not work for elementary students. Young children are very fidgety and may find these exercises boring. One of my 5th grade students at Sylvan Learning Center actually told me that his teacher does breathing exercises with the class, but he thinks it is a waste of time. However, whether you are teaching elementary or secondary school, this article has plenty of options to give students and their brains a break.
Hopefully this trend of breaks, meditation, and mindfulness will catch on and teachers everywhere will begin to use them. Other than Dr. Desautals’ article, there are a myriad of other resources for helping students pay attention. Based on how society keeps getting faster (and how our attention spans keep shrinking), students are going to need it in order to learn, focus, and survive in school.
Desautels, Dr. Lori. “Energy and Calm: Brain Breaks and Focused-Attention Practices.” RSS. Edutopia, 14 Jan. 2015. Web. 29 Sept. 2016.