There is a strong correlation between the student’s motivation and attention. Both are important issues and various methods should be used to improve student motivation and increase attention especially during school. An ever growing concern in schools today is that with the increasing of age during the schooling years, academic motivation is declining (Pressley, & McCormick, 2007, p. 261). As students are becoming less motivated in the class, so too will their ability to pay attention in class, especially in subjects that are uninteresting. The more motivated a student becomes, the more they will pay attention and focus on what is being taught. Medina (2008) states that, “the more attention the brain pays to a given stimulus, the more elaborately the information will be encoded – and retained (p. 74). One cannot stress enough the importance for educators to facilitate activities which maintains high motivation and attention levels for students. There are many strategies which can be used in the classroom and a few of these will be touched upon.
One method that can be used for elementary reading activities is dynamic literacy. Dynamic literacy calls teachers to intentionally select stories or novels that draw our students into a closer relationship with the lives of character (Keuss, 2013). Steven Garber claims dynamic literacy promotes good reading habits in four basic vectors of: good reading is done repetitively, reading is voluntary and passionate, good reading will be remembered and reflected upon, and good reading is a momentous experience (Keuss, 2013). Furthermore, Pressley and McCormick (2007) states that, “students spend more time reading interesting texts as compared to less interesting texts” (p. 279). There are several ways in which the teacher can increase the student’s interest and motivation through good reading. Offering meaningful choices to the students and allowing them to sometimes select the text themselves, by selecting vivid and relevant texts, consider the student’s prior knowledge, and by encouraging students to be active learners all will help facilitate learning (Pressley, & McCormick, 2007, p. 281). Just reading a book to promote literacy skills is not adequate enough. Teachers should provide rich and fulfilling texts with experiences that will motivate the students and maintain their attention. These novels should compel students to want to read more and continue to learn.
Medina (2008) states that when it comes to paying attention; the brain can only focus on one thing at a time (p. 84). Thus, I really like the idea of having an interruption free-zone during the school day (p. 93). This is where we can provide the opportunity for students to pay attention to only one thing. Removing distractions of outside noise, music, or computers and allowing the students focus to shift towards one task. It could simply be having the students right a reflection on a piece of paper – but closing the doors, blinds, and not allowing talking so that each student can focus on the assignment. The goal is to try and eliminate any possible distractors. Remember though that the teacher themselves can be a distractor. If the teacher was moving around or going through papers – this can be very distracting to students and deter their attention away from the assignment.
Finally, the way in which a teacher interacts with their students can promote more motivated students as well. Students were more motivated when they perceived that their teachers were supportive (Pressley, & McCormick, 2007, p. 283). Additionally it helps if the students feel as if they have some sort of control, as in their efforts matter (p. 283). Most importantly, student’s motivation and engagement increased when the students believed their efforts were because they wanted to do so, rather than being forced by the teacher (p. 283). It is always important as a teacher to be aware of how we are interacting with our students as it can impact their motivation.
Keuss, J. (2013). Dynamic literacy and character education – the context of today’s teenager [Word document]. Retrieved from SPU Blackboard web site.
Medina, J. (2008). Brian rules: 12 principles for surviving and thriving at work, home, and school. Seattle, WA: Pear Press.
Pressley, N., & McCormick, C.B. (2007). Child and adolescent development for educators. New York, NY: Guildford Press.