Thursday, 12 May 2011

Concentration styles in children

Image from here
I went to this fascinating presentation by Andrew Fuller on Building Resilience in Children, hosted at our school a couple of weeks ago.

Andrew refers to resilience as the ability to overcome adversity and obstacles. Resilient children then, are able to persist with problems/learning and have a higher tolerance for "not knowing".

He spoke of many different facets for building resilience in children, such as fostering a sense of belonging (being part of a gang - your family) and learning positive values (being true friends rather than fair weather friends). You can read more about it here.
The presentation centred around overcoming anxiety for children. Andrew says, "the greatest inhibitor to learning is the fear that we will be exposed as inadequate. Rather than risking exposure many people give up, switch off, feign illness, play up, dumb themselves down and try to become as invisible as possible."
The building blocks for success in the classroom are threefold: 1. Persistence, 2. Concentration, 3. Memory.
Andrew focused on concentration during the presentation. Concentration is our ability to draw our energy towards a specific event which we can then attend to. There are two types of attention: diffuse (allows us to absorb information in an uncritical way without judging it) and narrow (focuses on specific details). Both types of attention are necessary for living and learning.

According to Andrew, people fall into different categories in relation to maintaining concentration. By learning how they show loss of concentration, we are able to help our children get back on track and learn.
The concentration styles he discussed, how they manifest in our children and what we can do about it are outlined below (what I took from his talk anyway). Andrew said that they begin to emerge at about the age of four.
1. Happy wanderers: visual distractibility- observant of irrelevant information; Use visual concepts to keep them on track

2. Frequent Flyers: space cadets whose ideas go zooming off to distant planets; Provide opportunity to brainstorm and then encouragement to pick a couple of realistic solutions – imagination time vs concentration time

3. The Spies: all the wrong sounds seems to be amplified in their minds; Auditory learners; help them to narrow their focus.

4. Finger Safari experts: tactile distractibility; Teach them to sequence; use of games, physical challenges

5. Amplifiers: turn up the volume on whatever is happening around them; Challenge them - vary their perspective in relation to the stimulus through shifting viewpoints

6. Star Trekkers: treat every event in their life as unique and unconnected to anything in the past; POTBO (Point out the bleeding obvious)

7. Social secretaries: Need things to be perfect; lost in details; Teach them to ‘have a go’. Give them time limits.

To read more about Andrew's work and some of his fantastic articles, check out his website.

Do you recognise any of your little people in Andrew's Concentration style guides? How do you manage concentration problems in your children? Share your tips in the comments.


Cate said...

I didn't need to go past 'happy wanderers' for Snowbear! (man she can be hard to have a conversation with - I've had to implement the rule that she is not allowed to say anything other than what we are talking about if we are trying to have a serious conversation...otherwise even I forget what the point was after 20 mins of distraction).
Monkey is a bit more complex though...might have to think about that one :-)
What a great presentation that must have been!!

Diminishing Lucy said...

Fascinating. Thank you, I am off to read more now.

I am always looking for ways to understand how my three are learning. I have a very persistent Star Trekker in Miss Olivia...and a Finger Safari Expert in Charlie.

And Lexie? Oh my - she is a very happy wanderer...

Alice Becomes said...

This got my attention. Building Resilience is fast becoming my catchphrase, i think it is THE most important thing we can do for our kids...Great, yes, but then there is the whole how to do it??

I have read that teaching children to have empathy is vitally important in building resilience. Can't remember where I read it though!

I think my boys are still a little young to be categoried but I see the possibility of Star Trekker in M1...I can see me in the Frequent Flyer there..Thanks for this post, I'm off to check out more of his work

Gill xo

Doodah said...

My school has had the same presentation last year and a follow up last month. I wasn't able to attend either so thanks for the links!

Felicity said...

The man is a legend full stop.

xx Felicity {social secretary extraordinaire}

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