Supports for Learners
There are many simple strategies that teachers can utilize to increase children’s engagement in learning. The following supports were taken from literature on children at risk for failure in school (Adelman & Taylor, 1993; Espinosa, 2005; Lerner et al., 1995; Mastropieri & Scruggs, 2004; McKinley, 2003; Meese, 2001; Mercer & Mercer, 2005; Raymond, 2004; Smith, Polloway, Patton, & Dowdy, 1995; Stormont-Spurgin, 1997; Zentall, 1993, 2005, 2006; Zentall et al., 1993).
Coming to Attention
Several strategies can be used to support gaining children’s attention to instruction, announcements, or directions during the school day. Teachers can use one of the following “attention signals”:
- Clapping a few times and have children clap back
- Singing a part of a song and have children sing the rest
- Saying the first few letters of a word and have children say the rest (“L-I-S” “T-E-N”)
- Having a class name as a cue for attention, for example “Mrs. Geneux’s second-grade tigers”
- Having an attention signal that is more visual, such as raising one hand and putting the other over the mouth
- Having a “student of the week” use the attention signal
- Turning the lights in the classroom off and on and having another signal when out of the classroom
- Playing soft music for 5 seconds
- Having a “listen” visual cue that the teacher carries at all times (so it would probably be small)
Almost every teacher has some type of attention cue. However, attention cues don’t always work. When using attention cues, it is important to teach and practice the cues the first week of school. Teachers should recognize students who listen to the cue (“I have the attention of Marcus, Lucy, Natalie, etc.”) and should practice with students who are struggling. For example, if Keisha is not coming to attention, her teacher can remind her of the cue for coming to attention and practice with her before calling the class to attention. Also, teachers should not begin to speak until every child has come to attention. Children who do not come to attention will typically start asking others partway through the instructions what the teacher has said and then more children are off-task. Teachers can also use physical proximity and stand by children who struggle to come to attention before providing the attention signal and/or have those children help with the attention signal.
To help children attend to important directions during listening tasks, teachers need to be sure to highlight the most important information and try to limit the amount of detail they provide. Other strategies teachers can use to emphasize important information include:
- Using a special visual cue to signify that what they are about to say to children is very important.
- Changing the tone of their voice or using a funny voice to highlight that something they are saying is important.
- Restating the key parts or main ideas of directions and instructions.
During independent seatwork activities, teachers need to go directly to children with attention problems and ask them to restate what they are to do first, second, and third on specific tasks. If children can’t restate these steps, then teachers can write them down and provide visual cues when needed. Such a visual cue can include a list of steps on the board and a sample problem or story starter for children to refer back to as needed. Children can also rewrite directions or draw prompts on an index card and staple this in their journal or work page or tape it to their desks. They can then be taught how to use self-instruction with these cards. This support also helps students with sustained attention problems, impulsivity, and memory problems.
Teachers and children can also work together to highlight or underline the most important information on assignments. Color can be added to highlight a specific part of the instructions that children may overlook, or to highlight math operation signs to limit impulsive errors. The importance of children understanding what to attend to during seatwork and homework assignments is critical. For homework assignments, teachers should use these supports to help children understand the “main ideas” of assignments. Ultimately, as children move out of the primary grades, they will need to use self-management strategies to prompt their attention to specific cues and to get started on assignments.
Teachers can also help children selectively attend to the daily routine and anticipate what is coming up next by having advanced organizers in the classroom. For example, a poster or dry erase board with a picture and/or a description of what children should be doing could be used for different times of the day. Steps can also be listed to direct children to what they should be doing within certain time periods.
© ______ 2007, Merrill, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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