The traditional measure of intelligence is of passing tests or succeeding in a chosen activity. High Performance Learning asks pupils to be self-aware and meta-thinking can be a scary academic term that confuses students and parents alike when applying it to real life situations. Thinking about thinking is the easiest way to sum up this term and in today’s blog I am going to raise the debate of how we promote our children’s thinking skills in one key area: their focus and concentration.
As a parent of a 2 year old and a 6 year old I know it may seem that focus is the toughest of the disciplines to master from an early age. My 6 year old however has a mantra that she says before doing her homework “concentrate, concentrate, concentrate, practice practice practice” she says with a smile but she also understands the serious message.
Psychologists will give you some mixed news on how your child develops in this area. 70% of your child’s ability to concentrate is genetic, therefore depending on your outlook on life you may see the remaining 30% as a worryingly small figure to play with or an encouraging chance to be pro- active and encourage change. Daniel Goleman is a Harvard educated psychologist and author of bestselling book ’Emotional Intelligence’ and ‘Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence’. He is a firm believer in building on skills to improve focus and concentration and the following borrows some of his and others’ research and advice.
Whatever it takes to encourage a child to focus, the encouraging news is it is a behaviour that can be practiced and improved. What the science shows is that attention is a mental muscle that can be strengthened with the proper exercise just like any other muscle.
Focusing time at the beginning of lessons can be used to prepare students and children to remove the distractions of running around at play time, this concept works at home as well after students have played on their games consoles or surfed the web. Having a dedicated quiet moment and concentrating the mind on the task ahead is recommended. It may be a simple thing like asking your child to sit and watch their breath for a couple of minutes and focus on nothing but breathing. If their mind gets distracted onto other things, tell them to refocus, as they sit quietly and clear their head. Continually asking them to concentrate on breathing and refocus when other thoughts enter their head is the actual practice of focus. Some schools even offer meditation as a way of taking this further. There are clear scientific results from research in the USA and New Zealand that show that a child’s ability to resist the temptation of distraction and stay focused predicts how she will fare financially and health wise in adulthood.
Clearing a space, minimizing distractions and practicing concentration is an important behavior that can be done anywhere and is useful for a lifetime. As a community working together, reminding ourselves that it is important to concentrate and focus and practicing this, is something that is useful for all of us.
If you would like some resources to help you with these techniques feel free to get in touch.
Have a great weekend; see if you can help clear your mind. The hardest part may be finding a few minutes to do this!
- Chris Share, Head of Secondary