Tips to Help First Graders Focus

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Students who can’t focus in class have a great deal of trouble learning and successfully retaining information. First grade students who are easily distracted could miss many of the foundational skills necessary to become successful learners. Although the student may not have ADD/ADHD, similar focus strategies may benefit him.

1 Study Carrels

A study carrel keeps young eyes focused on the work in front of her. While not practical for some activities, the student can use the carrel when doing independent work. Place the carrel facing a wall and slightly away from other students. Place items the student may need close to the carrel so that she doesn’t get distracted when she doesn’t have what she needs.

2 Location

Place his desk at the front of the room near the instruction area. According to the U.S. Department of Education, during some instructional sessions, you may need to stand next to the desk to keep him on task by singling him out for his behavior. A strong look could be enough to catch off-focus behavior before it becomes a real issue.

3 Limit Multitasking

Provide easily-distracted students with no more than three steps worth of instruction at a time. You may need to limit steps to one at a time for some students.

Where possible, you may illustrate the steps with icons to remind the student what to do next. Create icon cards you can put on the desk or on the front wall of a study carrel for common instructions. For example, a card with an open book followed by a card with a picture of a pencil on paper and a card with a raised hand can remind a student to read a story, complete the work and raise his hand when he is finished so you can collect the paper.

4 Screening

Have the student screened for learning challenges, food sensitivities and other chemical reasons she may have trouble focusing. Rule out problems the child can’t control. Ask the learning consultant for additional tips to help the student focus in class. If the school offers additional support, take it.

5 Allow Some Movement

Some tactile and kinesthetic learners need to move in order to learn. Find acceptable ways for this to happen. Allow the child to doodle in class as long as he pays attention, for example. You could allow him to get up and move to another area and then quickly return to his seat.

6 Clear Expectations

Explain to the student what you want her to do and what behaviors are acceptable. The U.S. Department of Education recommends providing clear objectives for the lesson so she knows items to focus on.

7 Maintain a Routine

Children who are easily distracted may stay on task better when there is a steady, predictable routine to follow, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.