Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Why aren't they paying attention???

As a homeschool teacher, tutor, and Spanish teacher making learning age appropriate is essential!  I teach ages 4 - adult.   If I constantly take this into consideration when planning my lessons everyone wins!

Let me explain what I mean.  Imagine making a preschooler or kindergartner sit and listen through a lecture for an hour!  It just wouldn't work:)  I bet some of you have tried that in a church setting or wedding!  I have.  What a disaster!  Sometimes sitting through an hour long lecture can be difficult even for an adult!

So what can you do in a wedding or church service to keep those kiddos quiet and engaged?  That's right, give them quiet activities to keep them occupied:)  But, you probably already knew that.  In a teaching environment, what do we do  to help our kids pay attention and learn?

There are two factors to consider when teaching students and keeping them engaged in learning.  We can keep our teaching age appropriate by taking into consideration their developmental ability and  attention span.

1.  Developmental Ability:

  Some of us learn faster in certain areas and slower in other areas.  Our developmental ability can be influenced by a variety of factors.   Some of those factors include age,  hormones, stimulant intake (sugar & caffeine), medications, health, nutrition, physiology, gender,  and sleep.  All of these things can have a significant impact on your student's ability to pay attention!  Taking all these things into consideration when your planning your lessons can make things run a lot smoother.

The physical developmental ability of your students to pay attention is in my opinion the most  important factor to consider!    A toddler is just not physically and developmentally able to pay attention to an hour long lecture!  They may not understand the complex language being used and do not have the attention span to pay attention that long!

2.  Attention Span:

I agree with the theory that you can give a minute for every year in age to gauge your students attention span.  So a five year old may have a 5 minute attention span for every activity.  That is why many children like video games and television.  The activity is always changing and keeping their attention.  So how do you apply this in the classroom?  A good rule of thumb is to change the activity to suit their attention span.  For 5 year olds,  changing the activity every 5 - 10 minutes  is a very good idea.  I have also found that moving during learning is a great way to help your little learners stay focused.

This week in my beginning Spanish class (ages 4-9) we changed our activity every 5-15 minutes.  We went through our Spanish Flash cards together while each student followed along with their slider.  We were able to make it through the whole alphabet discussing the phonetics and vocabulary words in 15 minutes!  How was I able to keep it going so long you ask?  Well, I had the kids actively participating by repeating the sounds, answering my questions, and  by encouraging them to move their slider on their individual alphabet while  highlighting each letter as we went along!   (I used plastic bra clips I found at the dollar store but you could use a paper clip, scarf holder, etc.:)

When you have multiple children, keeping them all engaged can be an art, as many teachers know:)  This is what we've been using this week...

 If you would like to try out the sliders you can grab them here for free!

I also had them actively participating in counting in Spanish by putting toothpicks in these cute little guys (also at the dollar store:)

Here is how I scheduled a 1 hour class for 4-6 year olds:

Introduction to  Spanish Conversation: Greetings and Questions -5- 10 minutes
Review of ABC's and vocabulary ( using sliders and highlighters) - 15 minutes
New Vocabulary Work Sheets:  Writing name, Coloring, Cut, and Paste -15 minutes
(notice some activities can last longer than 5 minutes for 5 year olds because we are doing multiple activities in one ie: cutting, pasting, coloring, and talking)
Games & Wrap up:  Flyswatter number recognition, Toothpick counting with dice

The older class went something like this (Ages 7-12)

Greetings & new vocabulary - 15 minutes
Getting to know you foldables in Spanish - 15 minutes ( cutting, talking, folding and playing game)
Flyswatter word game -15 minutes)
Writing New Vocabulary words and sentences in Spanish wrap up - 15 minutes

Here are some ideas that you can use to  Make Learning Age Appropriate:

1.  Keep the activity at the learners developmental level

2.  Keep the time frame in mind for the learners age level

 1 activity time frame for each age may look something like this ...

1 minute: 1year old
5 minutes : 5 year old
10 minutes: 10 year old
13 minutes: 13 year old

3:  Use multisensory learning devices to help keep learners engaged

For my  classes I like to use art, cutting & pasting, foldable papers, highlighting, games, and writing.

4.  Take into consideration the factors that may influence your learners developmental ability to pay attention.  (age,  hormones, stimulant intake (sugar & caffeine), medications, health, nutrition, physiology, gender,  and sleep)  You may need adjust your lesson plans for your learners needs,  disabilities, amount of sugar intake, etc.  You may also be able to encourage them limit some of these inhibitors to their learning!

5.  Have Fun!  (Great for all ages:)

Making learning age appropriate is essential as a  teacher! When I  take this into consideration while planning my lessons the kids learn, laugh, and I enjoy it too!

I would love to know how you manage your classes and make your teaching age appropriate!  Please share your comments below:)

I am linking up this week with ...


  1. Love these ideas ... as well, I'm a homeschooling, Spanish teacher as well :) So crazy blessed to have found you.

    Thanks for joining the melody! I do hope you will continue to bless us with your words and joy as we just started the momma notes.

    I jot some notes each Monday, but it's not a have to link up on Monday sort of thing. I know the filled to the brim momma schedules. LInk up any day of the week when you have a moment. no rules. just moms. sharing our notes. creating a melody.

    Happy day,

  2. Oh, this post so touched my heart! I'm a kindergarten teacher and agree all the way. Love the sliders!

  3. You sound like a wonderful teacher! I enjoy being a part-time teacher's assistant at a private English school down the road from our house. I get to do everything a teacher does without the burden of a full-time job.
    Thanks for linking and leaving a comment on Amanda's Books and More!

  4. Thank you so much for stopping by! I'm so thankful to be able to hook up with wonderful teachers like you:)

  5. Great post!! Thank you! I have a 4 year old and her attention doesn't last long at all - I will start changing the activity every 5 minutes or so and see if that helps. :-)
    Visiting from Raising Mighty Arrows.

  6. Wow, I love this post! Thanks for the great perspective and tips :) -Amy


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