By Glenda Thorne, Ph.D. and Alice Thomas, M.Ed.
(Designed primarily for the junior high school student; statements may be adjusted for younger or older students.)
Directions: Circle one number for each question.
Key 0 Never 1 Sometimes 2 Often 3 Always
1. In conversations with friends or when the teacher is talking, I listen and try to pay attention, but my mind wanders and I miss out on important information; I tune in and out. 0 1 2 3
2. I have trouble getting started on my work, such as writing a paragraph, doing my math homework, or reading a chapter. 0 1 2 3
3. When I read, I have trouble concentrating. I keep thinking about a lot of things that have nothing to do with what I’m reading, so I have to read it over and over again. 0 1 2 3
4. I mean to do things, but I forget (such as cleaning up my room, turning in my work, meeting my friends at a certain time, or returning a library book). 0 1 2 3
5. I am easily irritated and “short fused”; I tend to “fly off the handle” easily. 0 1 2 3
6. I “run out of steam” when I am trying to complete tasks. I just don’t seem to finish what I start. 0 1 2 3
7. I am easily distracted by background noises or activities (for example, what’s going on in the school hallway, the lawn mower outside, the cars passing by outside the window, the teacher in the next room). 0 1 2 3
8. I am constantly on the go. I don’t like to sit still; I need to be moving. 0 1 2 3
9. I am easily sidetracked; I start something, but switch to something else before I finish the first thing. 0 1 2 3
10. I often say or do things without thinking about what will happen next, such as saying something to a friend, blurting out in class, or hitting someone. 0 1 2 3
11. My mind goes quickly from one thing to another until I find that I am way off the original topic. 0 1 2 3
12. I don’t sleep well and am usually tired in school. 0 1 2 3
0-12 Are you sure you don’t teach classes in attention?
13-24 Your attention and concentration may need some improvement.
25-36 Your attention needs a lot of attention!
- NOTE:This self-test has no diagnostic value. It is not intended that this self-test be used as part of any school record or evaluation.
The best resources for instructional strategies are the creative, inventive minds of enlightened, dedicated assessment professionals and teachers, in partnership with the students they serve. Together they can create multiple alternative strategies.
What Strategies Can a Student Use To Increase His/Her Attention?
The following are offered as strategies for the management of attention problems. This listing is by no means exhaustive, but rather is meant as a place to begin.
- The first and perhaps the most important management strategy is that all students should understand how attention works and identify their particular profiles of attention strengths and weaknesses.
- All students should be taught attention management strategies.
- In school, teachers can help students with inconsistent alertness and mental effort by requiring them to put forth relatively small amounts of work during any given time period or to focus attention on one thing at a time.
- A teacher’s instructional strategies should be varied and should be changed approximately every 20 minutes. For example, students could work in Cooperative Learning groups for 20 minutes. This could be followed by 15 minutes of individual seatwork.
- The teacher should have a private way of signaling students when they are tuned out. For example, a gentle tap on the shoulder may be effective.
- Teachers can avoid battling students’ natural desire to talk with one another by building active and productive dialogue into the lesson. Rather than asking students to complete a worksheet in silence, the teacher may put them in pairs to complete the task.
- Children are generally most alert when they are doing things that interest them. Each student should be encouraged to read about, write about and talk about subjects he finds the most compelling and for which he demonstrates a clear affinity.
- It is helpful for students who have attention problems to be provided with opportunities to move around. Engaging in activities such as erasing the board, taking a message to the office, and collecting papers would be appropriate.
- Many students learn better through active experience or experiential learning. Trips, tours, and other active projects are likely to induce the greatest levels of alertness, and therefore the most learning. Whenever possible, teachers and parents should provide these types of opportunities as a part of a child’s formal learning experience.
- In order to increase alertness and arousal, students may need to be doing something with their hands while seated at a desk. It may be that doodling, handling a piece of paper or clay or performing some other manual activity helps them feel more alert and aroused.
- Teachers should understand that the inconsistency of children with attention problems is not evidence of a poor attitude. It is a part of their biologically-based attention dysfunction, and is beyond their easy control. Statements such as “I know you can do it” or “I have seen you do well when you apply yourself” are not helpful to these students because they may cause feelings of guilt.
- Teachers and parents can help students develop previewing/planning skills by encouraging them to formulate a plan before writing a report or starting a project. They need to preview consciously.
- Self-control strategies may be helpful for students who have impulse-control problems. The students may be asked to describe the situation that led to their actions. They may state what their action was and then be asked to identify what other more appropriate actions they might have taken. They could then state what the consequences of each of these actions might have been, and then decide which one of these actions would have been the best for them to take.
- Students with impulse control problems should engage in daily self-assessments. Their parents/teachers could develop a format for them to rate behaviors they are trying to improve. Appropriate rewards can be offered for improvement. The focus of the ratings should be staying in control.
- To help the student with improper pacing, his teachers and parents should discourage frenetic work patterns by avoiding statements such as, “You can go out to recess as soon as you finish your assignment” or “You can watch television when you finish your work.” Offers of this kind may inadvertently encourage him to work as quickly and carelessly as possible.
- Students who have attention problems often need frequent scheduled breaks when studying at home. The breaks could be timed with a kitchen or microwave timer. They should stand up and walk around during breaks, but avoid activities that are too stimulating. In addition, it may be helpful for them to change their worksite.
- At home, it may be helpful for students to set up a well-organized office. They should experiment with different kinds of background noise levels to accompany work or study (some children actually concentrate better in a noisy environment or while listening to music; others need ear muffs). They should find the best time for studying (i.e., most alert time).
- A notebook with three sections labeled “Work to be Completed,” “Work Completed” and “Work to be Saved” may be used to help students organize their assignments. Color-coding notebooks for different subjects may also be helpful for organizing work.
- Students with attention problems may need to have a weekly homework sheet given to them at the beginning of each week. An intervention should be implemented assuring that this sheet, as well as any necessary materials, gets home.
Tell me and I forget. Show me and I remember. Let me do it and I understand.
Ancient Chinese Proverb
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