Practical Ideas to Help an 8 Year-Old Focus Better

Heart of Dakota - Dear Carrie

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Dear Carrie

How can I help my son maintain better focus during history and science readings?

We just finished our first week of Heart of Dakota. I have a son who is eight using Bigger Hearts. He’s really enjoying the curriculum and doing well. However, he is having a hard time getting the science and history readings to sink in. Do you have suggestions on how to help him keep his focus/attention? Especially while I read to him? He has a tough time trying to narrate back to me. Someone suggested letting him move about the room while I read, or buy some special wiggly seat for him to sit on. I tried having him move around the room. It was a disaster. The readings are so interesting! I’M totally into them. I just can’t figure out how to get HIM to focus. Do you have some practical ideas to help him, that don’t involve buying a special cushion?

Sincerely,

“Ms. Please Help with Practical Ideas for My 8 Year-Old to Focus Better”

Dear “Ms. Please Help with Practical Ideas for My 8 Year-Old to Focus Better,”

One thing to keep in mind is that the readings that are within Bigger Hearts are definitely challenging and include a very high-level vocabulary. This makes them a step up from the readings within Beyond. It takes time to grow into the skills required to listen to, process, and narrate upon more difficult readings. So, time spent reading more difficult material will definitely help a child grow into these skills. It is a process that takes time.

Have your child sit next to you and follow along as you read.

Next, it is usually true that seeing and hearing what is read will result in better retention than simply hearing what is read. So, it is a good idea to have your child sit next to you and follow along with the text while you read. I keep my wiggly boys close to me on the couch and keep my arm around them, having them help me hold the book as I read. This keeps them anchored next to me and keeps their minds focused on the words on the page.

Having your son narrate on shorter segments will help, but be careful not to stop to explain, summarize, or reread the text.

Stopping after several paragraphs to have your child give a brief narration, and then continuing right on, is another strategy that will help. Also, be sure that you are not stopping to explain difficult words, summarize the reading, or reread the text, as this actually interrupts the flow of the story in a child’s mind. Instead, we want to work toward training your child in the habit of listening and retelling from a single reading.

For many children, movement during reading interferes with the habit of retention.

While it is true that kiddos with certain disabilities listen and retain better when they are in motion, this is not true for most children. For many children, movement during reading interferes with the habit of attention and instead focuses and practices the habit of multi-tasking. Kids today often multi-task very well, but multi-tasking often means not giving your full attention to a single task but rather giving partial attention to a variety of tasks at once.

We are looking to form the habit of giving full attention to a single task, within the process of listening and narrating.

With narration and listening, we are looking to form the habit of giving a child’s full attention to a single task. To do this, the child often needs to be still, focusing all his/her attention on the reading and subsequent retelling. This is why it is so important to keep the readings short and the follow-up short too. This allows the child to give his/her full concentration to the task at hand, without requiring an unreasonable amount of time to be spent in this focused concentration.

You will see this skill slowly develop as time passes.

As time passes, I think you will be surprised at the progress your child will make in this area if you simply do the plans as written, requiring the child to focus/concentrate from a single reading. The skill will slowly develop through the years.

Blessings,

Carrie

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