How to Teach Your Students to Self-Monitor Their Attention

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One of the most common struggles for children is the ability to pay attention. Yet, we rarely teach them (at least not in depth) how to do this.

Attention looks very different from just quiet mouths, still hands, and watching eyes. It can also look different for every child. Some students need to be sitting still in order to optimize their attention, others need some sort of stimulation (a fidget or differentiated seating). It can be hard to know when a child is paying attention without asking them a question about what they were hearing/working on. This can make monitoring your student's attention difficult without making them feel singled out.

How to Teach Your Students to Self-Monitor Their Attention

A great way to teach your students this important skill is to have your entire class monitor their own attention (with support). At the start of the year give the class a keyword. Every time you say this keyword, it will be a clue for them to check in and see if they are paying attention or distracted. It helps them refocus their attention on the task or lesson, and keep going.

An optional step is to have them actually monitor how often they are paying attention. This can be a worksheet they keep in their desk so that they feel that it is personal to them.

Encourage them to work on this at home. Have them (or their parents) set a timer with a pre-determined interval. Every time the timer goes off, they should evaluate their attention and redirect it if necessary.

You, as the teacher, can use the keyword at time intervals as well, or when the class seems distracted and needs to be redirected. Teaching students how to self-monitor themselves instead of just correcting their behavior will help set them up for lifelong success.

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