Source : Christy Maxwell , ehow.com
One of the most important tasks a teacher can undertake is engaging a classroom full of active, antsy first-graders in the learning process. In today's school setting, children who have diagnosed problems with attention or behavior are part of the mix. Rather than getting mired in absolute bedlam, there are many simple things teachers can do to improve focus in a first-grade classroom. Instead of unrealistically insisting first-graders remain calmly seated, focusing on a written assignment, teachers can restructure the environment to meet the attention needs of their students.
- Give children opportunities to be active. Numerous studies show that movement and physical exercise activate the attention centers in the brain. Finding ways to integrate movement activities every 15 to 20 minutes in a first-grade classroom helps direct pent-up energy, allowing better focus during activities requiring intense attention.
- Use activities that cross the "midline." This is the imaginary line that runs lengthwise down the center of the body. Brain researchers believe activities which call for crossing the midline engage both hemispheres of the brain, increasing connections and the ability to focus. Standing with legs apart apart and bending to touch the opposite knee would be an example of crossing the midline.
- Boost chemical production in the brain. Aerobic exercise increases the production of endorphins, which promote positive feelings and elevate mood. Dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine levels increase with exercise. These chemicals improve the brain's ability to focus and remain alert.
- Provide sensory stimulation. Some research shows that attention difficulties stem from the brain's inability to effectively process sensory input. Providing tactile (touch), vestibular (sense of gravity and movement) and proprioceptive (the sense of the body in space) activities for students can increase focus by giving input the brain needs. Touching a piece of Velcro on the desk, swinging and moving on an exercise ball are all examples of this type of sensory stimulation.
- Put on a puppet show. Using puppets to teach actively engages young children in lessons. Learning through play is a very effective method of improving student focus. Children view puppets as friendly, non-threatening and entertaining. Whether students are watching as a puppet presents the lesson or using puppets to act out what they have learned, projecting information via cheerful puppet characters is a brilliant way to immediately gain the rapt attention of young children.
- Use technology responsibly. While some research suggests computer programs and video games are contributing to the ADHD epidemic, another body of research shows that technology can be used to improve student focus and decrease hyperactive, impulsive responses. Interactive whiteboards are one tool that actively engages students in whole-group lessons, increasing participation in the learning process. Also, various software programs are available to train students to focus and respond appropriately to various stimuli.
- Establish positive relationships with students. Teachers who go to extra lengths to develop positive connections with students experience less acting out behaviors and greater student focus and achievement. When students feel connected, valued and respected, they are better able to focus on learning.